Debate over Long Beach Army Corps project revived


The city’s plan to revisit a 2006 Army Corps of Engineers project sparked a debate at Tuesday’s meeting among residents who support the plan and those who question its viability and say that it should address flooding in Reynolds Channel, which many said was hit harder by Hurricane Sandy than the southern half of the city.

All expressed a sense of urgency, saying that some sort of plan is needed to protect the city from another major storm.

“It’s very important that something be done before the next hurricane,” said Rob McClusky.

Billy Kupferman, a member of the Long Beach Surfer’s Association and a resident of the Canals whose home was destroyed, said that those who voiced their opposition to the plan in 2006 did so in part because it would have created dangerous rip currents and did not address bay flooding, and they questioned whether the creation of a dune system was the most effective way to protect the ocean side of the island, among other issues.

“The fact that the plan would have likely diminished the quality of surf in Long Beach was but one minute issue,” Kupferman said. “The corps presented its plan as a take-it-or-leave-it deal — there was no room for alteration to address concerns specific to Long Beach. In reaching out to the Army Corps now, you’re taking a step toward better protecting our community. I’m still concerned, however, that the corps’ original plan does not truly provide the protection we need.”

Resident Stuart Banschick said that the city couldn’t afford to reject the plan. “I think at this point, if they come up with a similar plan,” he said, “we really need to take what we can get.”

Larry Moriarty, a member of the Surfrider Foundation, disagreed. “The inflexibility of the Army Corps of Engineers … was one of the reasons that people looked negatively on the plan,” he said.

School Board President Roy Lester, another resident of the Canals whose home was extensively damaged, said that the city’s consulting firm made 10 recommendations in 2009, including seeking federal support for a separate plan to protect the bay, but they were never followed through on.

“We’re going to find ourselves at the same place again, with the same problems, if we take the Army Corps of Engineers plan and we try to propose it again without following through with the recommendations,” Lester said. “The bay is going to be much more difficult [to protect] but just because it’s difficult, it can’t be ignored.”

Resident Kevin Heller said he was among those who opposed the project in 2006, but he added that his views changed “considerably” after he and his family sustained major flood damage. “What if we say no?” he said. “I heard the number $70 million. Certainly we can’t afford that.”