Final Project Update 5-11-09

Construction activity on the community-sponsored beach renourishment project was concluded before midnight on April 29, within the time window of the project extension granted by the Seashore. The final days of construction activity were aided by calm seas and generally moderate weather. On the final days of pumping, with both dredges in operation, the contractor exceeded 42,000 cubic yards per day. The wildlife monitor observed an isolated pair of piping plovers foraging in an area to the west of the project termination point, but 300 yards from the area of operations. They subsequently left the area.

Kelly Risotto reported on April 27 to Town officials and representatives of the community erosion control taxing districts on the key role the Fire Island National Seashore played in completion of the project:

“As you are all aware, the Fire Island community beach nourishment project met with several delays since construction started on January 27. This meant permit extensions were required from all federal and state agencies for work continuing into April. As you know, the project was planned to be completed by April 25 in the Central reach (Ocean Bay Park to Summer Club). But bad weather and equipment delays, most notably the three-day weather delay during the week of April 17, meant an additional extension would be necessary. Land Use Ecological Services worked closely with Superintendent Soller, and a final extension through April 29 allowed Weeks Marine to complete the project in its entirety.

“We all owe a debt of gratitude to Superintendent Soller for his understanding of how important this project is to the participating communities. That the communities themselves agreed with Weeks Marine to change the project sequence to minimize potential impact on piping plovers may have been important to his decision, but his awareness that the communities considered completion of the project to be critical was equally so, in our opinion. Chuck Bowman and I believe everyone should show their appreciation to Mr. Soller for his understanding and support on this matter.”

Kelly Risotto, Senior Ecologist, Land Use Ecological Services

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail report to FIA Board Members on a last-day visit to the operation as it neared conclusion at the beach off Summer Club:

All that remains for the contractor is beach dressing (grading, etc.) and equipment removal. The latter will be done from the beach and will have to await a calm day. Today (May 1) was calm but strong east winds are predicted later as a cold front moves through the area.

The new beach is impressive. The Ocean Beach groins have been buried (at least for now) and there is a 25-foot wide dune with elevation of 13-15 feet. Looking west, there is a gap extending from the west edge of the Central reach (Summer Club) to the east edge of the Western reach (Lonelyville). Robbins Rest and Atlantique did not participate in the project, and no sand was placed in the federal area west of Summer Club. Steve says spreading will fill some of that gap, but the useful life of non-continuous projects is shorter than that of continuous ones.

Steve Keehn believes the projects now in place are “good for five or six years.” At first, waves will spread the newly constructed beach profile over the existing bottom (the engineers call this “equilibration”). In this process, the underwater toe of the beach is built up by natural wave and current forces, as illustrated by the diagram in the post that follows.  As Mr. Keehn points out, this apparent “loss” of the part of the beach that is visible is wholly expected. The amount of sand estimated to move offshore is compensated for by placing about twice as much sand as is expected to remain on the beach .

While the restored beach is doing its job of protecting the communities over the next few years, people interested in shore protection for the long run have a different job to do. That is to continue to press government at all levels to put aside their differences and join in a comprehensive program of coastal management for the benefit of the region as well as Fire Island.