2009 FIRE ISLAND, NY BEACH RENOURISHMENT PROJECT DESCRIPTION
INTRODUCTION AND LOCATION
Eleven Fire Island communities are currently concluding a beach renourishment project that began construction on January 27, 2009. The eleven communities, shown below (figure 1) are part of the Towns of Islip and Brookhaven, and the Villages of Saltaire and Ocean Beach, on Long Island, New York. Having renourished their beaches between November 2003 and January 2004, the communities of Fair Harbor, Dunewood, Lonelyville, Fire Island Pines and Saltaire were due for periodic renourishment in 2009. The remaining six communities joined in the cooperative project for greater cost efficiency and mutual assistance during
the permitting process.
FIGURE 1: FIRE ISLAND LOCATION MAP
Fire Island is a 31-mile long barrier island located on the south shore of Long Island, in Suffolk County, New York (Figure 1). The island is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Fire Island Inlet to the west, Moriches Inlet to the east, and Great South Bay to the north. Fire Island consists of a mixture of National, State and County Parks, municipal recreation areas, and a number of residential communities. The communities, located between Robert Moses State Park and the Otis G. Pike Federal Wilderness Area (Watch Hill), are mostly single family vacation homes, a smaller number of full-time residences, and a few stores and public buildings needed for community living.
Beach nourishment was needed to avoid the state of critical erosion that has occurred in the past. The 2009 project communities, renourishment segments, and sand sources are identified in Figure 1. The Fire Island total project area encompasses four segments, 26,000 linear feet of shoreline and a renourishment volume of 1.8 million cubic yards of sand from offshore sites. The two borrow areas were developed for the 2003 project and still contain 2.8 million cy of beach-compatible sand. The project is currently under construction by Weeks Marine, Inc. of Cranford, New Jersey. The project size by reach is as follows:
Western Fire Island 468,000 cy
Central Fire Island 548,100 cy
Fire Island Pines 500,000 cy
Davis Park 305,000 cy
TOTAL 1,821,100 cy
Several Fire Island communities have nourished their beaches periodically since the aftermath of severe storms in the early 1990’s. Earlier projects date back over 50 years. A number of communities were nourished using the 1994 borrow area (Figure 1). Western Fire Island was nourished with 465,000 cubic yards, and Fire Island Pines received approximately 200,000 cubic yards. Ocean Beach, among other communities, was also nourished. In 1997, the Fire Island Pines project was completed by placing 650,000 cubic yards from the 1997 borrow area.
Five communities were renourished with sand from two new offshore sources between November 2003 and January 2004. The communities were grouped under three contracts: the Incorporated Village of Saltaire, Town of Islip (Fair Harbor, Dunewood, Lonelyville) and Town of Brookhaven (Fire Island Pines). The projects were constructed by Great Lakes Dredge and
Dock Company using their hydraulic cutterhead dredge Alaska and trailingsuction hopper dredge Liberty Island. The construction volumes for Western Fire Island and Fire Island Pines were 717,728 and 560,840 cy, respectively, as measured in February 2004. Thus, since 1994, a total of 2.59 million cubic yards have been placed at the expense of local taxpayers on public beaches fronting the communities of Fire Island (Kismet to Davis Park).
Photos 1- 3: Davis Park during and after April 2007 Nor’easter and Post-construction (April 1, 2009)
In April 2007, a major northeast storm eroded dunes and lowered beach elevations along Fire Island. The communities that participated in the 2003-04 projects, however, were not damaged as extensively as those that had not elected to nourish their beaches in those projects. They also suffered less in the way of volumetric loss to their dunes and beaches. Equally important, losses that were incurred were eligible under FEMA Category G funding guidelines since the storm had been declared a national disaster. Davis Park, already severely eroded with hot spots that extended along one-third of the community shoreline, was further eroded by the April 2007 nor’easter (see Photos 1-3). The same nor’easter aggravated the long-term erosion trend at Ocean Beach and Seaview. Ocean Bay Park, Corneille Estates and Summer Club all experienced similar erosion damage, requiring action to be taken to avoid entering the state of critical erosion that occurred in the past.
PROJECT OBSTACLES AND SUCCESSES
Even before construction began, the multiple-reach project faced several obstacles. Eleven communities were required to come together, with four contracting authorities agreeing on a single contract. This required formation of an Inter-municipal Agreement (IMA) Team to decide the course of the project. At times, the separate entities found it difficult to decide on a single approach. In the end, however, they were able to agree on the most critical topics and thus provide the best available outcome for the overall project. Along with the IMA Team, several local political leaders worked cooperatively to make the 2009 Renourishment Project a reality. Not only was the eleven-member team required to act in unison, the project also required permits from New York state, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of the Interior (DOI). One DOI agency (Fire Island National Seashore) acted as lead Federal agency for granting project permits, presiding over the process. Nevertheless, the process was laborious: Permitting for the 2009 project began in fall of 2006. Final permits were not received until December 2008, only weeks before construction had to begin to insure completion before the onset of Piping Plover nesting season, when all activity on the beach was required to end. But, without the hard work and dedication of many, it would not have been possible to agree on the permits at all.
With the permits obtained, inevitable delays and obstacles were encountered during construction. Large swell and storms that occur during the winter months routinely shut down dredging operations for days at a time and delay crucial mobilization operations (Photo 4). Higher and more frequent waves also make proper placement of fill on the beach harder to accomplish. It is difficult to credit volume placed on the beach while it is being washed away by heavy surf, which is why beach projects are best constructed when the sea is calmer.
Several large wave events occurred over the winter of 2009, removing sand from the beach fill template almost as soon as it was placed. This meant the contractor had to be able to pump and measure the profile quickly and effectively. Pay volume templates were modified somewhat to deal with this difficultly. The installation of sub-line is the most weather dependent operation, which contributed to construction delays. A calm day is needed (Photo 4) but calm days are scarce in the winter.
Photo 4: Sub-line installation on Fire Island March 13, 2009.
The construction schedule originally adopted contemplated the use of two hopper dredges, one to complete the Western reach and proceed to the Central, and the second, arriving later to work at Fire Island Pines and then proceed to Davis Park. Unfortunately, given the late start combined with bad weather and equipment problems, it became clear that the project could not be completed by March 31, the permit deadline based on expected onset of breeding activity by Piping Plovers.
Davis Park was the participating community closest to likely plover nesting sites, but also the community most in need of beach and dune renourishment. In another demonstration of inter-community cooperation, it was decided to complete work at Davis Park in advance of the Central reach where experience has shown plovers are less likely to attempt nesting. This required a request that the permitting agencies allow work to continue in a single reach (the Central) until April 25, with operations ceasing in those closer to historic plover nesting.
Photos 5-7: Dunewood was renourished in 2009 before critical erosion reappeared as it had before the 2003-4 project: Before 2003-4 project, Pre-construction (January 2009) and Post-construction (March 2009).
The project demonstrates how a plan for periodic renourishment aids in maintaining a substantial amount of shoreline, instead of waiting until erosion has become critical. Photos 5-7 show the Dunewood shoreline did not retreat to the point of critical erosion which threatened structures in 2003 and earlier. Photo 6 shows that both the beach and dune maintained position along the line of houses with minimal losses since 2004. In other words, the project was a success in restoring the shoreline and providing greater storm protection at Dunewood, in part because it had a previously restored beach to begin with.
The Fire Island project also shows why renourishment is important. Davis Park was in a state of critical erosion before the project began in late winter of 2009 (see Photos 8 and 9). The renourishment project restored the community’s protective dunes and beach width. The general public is often unaware of the benefits of beach restoration and expects dramatic changes with a beach nourishment project. With maintenance nourishment projects, the benefits of the renourished beach are less dramatic than an emergency project implemented to repair a critically eroded shoreline.
Fire Island’s 2009 Project succeeded in renourishing the beaches of eleven participating communities in four reaches. The project successfully brought together eleven sometimes disparate communities to achieve a common goal of restoring the shoreline of Fire Island. Other than the FEMA storm aid, the communities’ projects are privately funded to provide beach protection until the larger Corps’ Fire Island to Montauk Point project can be approved and implemented. The project has an anticipated 5-year design life and will aid in preserving the shoreline for future visitors to Fire Island.
Photos 8 & 9: Davis Park post Nor’easter (April 2007) and Post-construction (April 1, 2009)
P:/New York/7300.35 Construction Services Fire Island/Project Description/2009 FIRE ISLAND PROJECT_April_13_2009.doc