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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Lighthouse Officials Say Dune Project Delay Is Putting Iconic Landmark in Jeopardy

Oct. 3, 2014 CBS NEWS

FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Fire Island lighthouse officials claim a delay in a dune replenishment project is putting the iconic landmark in jeopardy.

Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society is joining the fight to overturn a judge’s decision to halt the dune replenishment project because of an endangered bird species. The New York Audubon Society filed a lawsuit to protect the piping plover nesting grounds on Fire Island. The Audubon Society convinced a federal judge to stop a federal project repairing the dunes damaged by Superstorm Sandy for fear that it could harm the endangered species that nests in the island’s dunes.

Superstorm Sandy washed away the shore line’s protection and there is no time to wait, said Mark Nuccio, of the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society.

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