Saying that the city remains vulnerable to future storms like Hurricane Sandy, the City Council unanimously approved a measure at its meeting on Tuesday to revisit a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers storm-reduction project that was rejected in 2006, renewing a debate among residents for and against the plan.
The resolution reinvites the Army Corps to help the city as it recovers from the storm, City Manager Jack Schnirman said, and the move will ultimately lead to the development of a plan similar to the 2006 proposal for reconstruction of the city’s beaches.
Schnirman stressed that the resolution does not yet commit the city to the project — Long Beach would be required to enter into a cost-sharing agreement with the State Department of Environmental Conservation in order for construction to begin — and added that there would be more discussion and public input.
“This is just the beginning of the process,” Schnirman said. “In the future, we will have to obviously come back and see a real hard-core plan, real planning and public input. We need to communicate that we would like some assistance … rebuilding our beaches and bays. Doing nothing is not an option.”
The storm’s coastal flooding and powerful waves caused the loss of five feet of sand elevation on the beaches, and high tide now crests 25 feet from the boardwalk, compared with 125 feet prior to the storm.
Without help from the Army Corps, Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba explained, the city could be on the hook for $70 million to $80 million to rebuild the beachfront because its losses are not covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Had the city approved the Army Corps plan in 2006, the corps would have reconstructed the beachfront, LaCarrubba said.
“FEMA doesn’t cover non-engineered beaches,” LaCarrubba said. “A natural beach that hasn’t been built by the Army Corps of Engineers … [is] classified as non-engineered. A beach that was engineered for storm protection … the Army Corps would come in and replace it. That little piece of insurance, obviously, after this storm is missing.”