Prep work on beach replenishment project begins

Dec. 3, 2014       Story By: Peggy Spellman Hoey for 

California-based government contractors with the Dutra Group began mobilizing — laying down pipes and preparing an area where piping plovers nest — Monday as part of the U.S. Army Corps’ $47.9 million beach replenishment project at Smith Point County Park in Shirley.

Under the Army Corps’ plan, 2.5 million cubic yards of sand will be placed at varying heights between 13 and 15 feet high along Smith Point’s roughly five-mile coastline. The sand placement will include graduated sloping, a design consistent with the habitat of the piping plover, and Burma Road, a roadway leading to Moriches Inlet that is used by recreational beach drivers as well as county workers conducting maintenance of the jetty, will remain intact once the dunes are restored.

“The contractor is beginning to mobilize, so we are hoping to be pumping sand shortly,” said Army Corps spokesman Ken Wells Monday afternoon. “Right now, we are looking to finish construction in winter 2015.” The work is estimated to begin Dec. 17.

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Sandy's silver lining: clean water in long-polluted LI bay

October 28, 2014 Story By: Barbara Goldberg for Reuters 

(Reuters) - Chris Soller headed across a Fire Island beach ravaged by Superstorm Sandy two years ago and stopped to admire the unexpected gift the deadly storm left behind: water clear enough to see the sandy bottom of the long-polluted bay.

The storm that killed at least 159 people and destroyed more than 650,000 homes when it slammed the U.S. East Coast also tore two breaches through the long barrier island that lies across the murky Great South Bay from New York's Long Island.

The gap that remains open is allowing the Atlantic Ocean to surge in and out of the bay, and the water near the breach is cleaner, with more plentiful fish, than it has been in decades.

Twice-daily tides over the last two years have flushed away suburban runoff from sewage and lawn fertilizer that sparks algal blooms known as Brown Tide and kills off underwater grass vital to marine life.

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Contract award expected in dune project previously halted by court order

October 23, 2014 Story By: Peggy Spellman Hoey Long Island Advance

With a clear path carved out by a federal judge’s denial of a preliminary injunction that halted dune replenishment at Smith Point County Park, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to award a contract for the project by the end of the business day today, U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop said.

The Army Corps, which was sued along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the National Audubon Society last month over concerns about piping plover habitat, was freed up to move forward with plans to restart the project in a decision issued by Judge Sandra Feuerstein last Friday. After the Corps awards the contract, the contractor must complete three steps, including signing the contract and providing proof of insurance and bonding, and once those criteria are met, a notice to proceed will be issued, Bishop said.

“Those are the pieces that have to fall in place,” he said.

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Ruling to restart Fire Island dune project hailed by officials


Officials Saturday pledged to swiftly restart Fire Island's dune-building project after Audubon New York lost a court battle over whether a small section posed too much risk to endangered piping plovers. The dismissal of the nonprofit's lawsuit means the first dunes could be built this winter in parklands on the barrier island, said Gilbert Anderson, Suffolk public works commissioner.

In her decision Friday, U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein rejected Audubon New York's request for a preliminary injunction stopping a three-mile portion of the 19-mile project.

"Since plaintiff has not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of any of its claims against defendants, it is unnecessary to consider the 'irreparable injury' and 'public interest' prongs of a preliminary injunction motion," she wrote.

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Federal Judge Denies Injunction in FI Piping Plover Lawsuit


A federal judge Friday denied Audubon New York's request for a preliminary injunction to block part of a 19-mile flood-protection dune project planned for Fire Island. The decision by U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein of the Eastern District Court of New York came weeks after the nonprofit group sued, claiming the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' $207 million project would harm endangered piping plovers by destroying key beach habitat.

At issue was a three-mile stretch of dunes planned in public parklands. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service signed off on the project after winning improvements from the Army Corps: more nesting grounds to partly replace those that will be lost, enhanced monitoring, predator controls and other safeguards. In her 85-page decision, Feuerstein ruled Audubon New York had not presented a case it probably would win, so she did not need to consider if the plan would cause "irreparable" harm to the birds -- one of the standards required for a preliminary injunction.

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Read Court's Ruling