Holding back the water

Cedarhurst pumping station construction could start in 2020

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The construction of a pumping station in Cedarhurst to reduce flooding could get under way as early as next May, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Construction would likely begin in late spring 2020, with the first phase of construction expected to be the Atlantic shoreline of the Rockaways,” Matt Chlebus, a DEC engineer, wrote in an Aug. 23 letter to Cedarhurst Mayor Benjamin Weinstock.

According to Chlebus, the chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the final report on the Rockaways U.S. Army Corps Project on Aug. 22. In the report, the Hurricane Sandy General Reevaluation Report and Environmental Impact Statement, the Army Corps recommended ways to alleviate the effects of coastal storm surge in the East Rockaway and Rockaway inlets as well as Jamaica Bay, which affects the Five Towns and surrounding South Shore communities. The report is in its final phase of approval, which would come from the assistant secretary of the Army, Casey War-dynski.

The plan with the “most bang for the buck,” Weinstock said, proposes building the pumping station by Johnny Jack Park, near Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst, or behind the Five Towns Mini Golf and Batting Range, on Rockaway Turnpike in Lawrence by Motts Creek.

Nearly 1,000 feet of what the corps called “deep bulkhead” would be installed, following the existing bulkhead line on the southern end of the park. It would turn north along the park’s west side, and connect with higher ground behind the batting range with a 23-foot-long floodwall, up to 6 feet high. The projected cost of the project is $15.8 million in federal funds.

“Usually in these situations, the Army Corps says, ‘We build it, you maintain it,’” Weinstock said. “So once they get the approval, we’ll have a project partnership agreement with all the entities that have a stake in the project and allocate responsibility.”

Last year in Cedarhurst and Far Rockaway, the Army Corps presented plans to reduce flooding and other damage for more than 850,000 people in Nassau County, Brooklyn and Queens. The agency invited public comments through last October.

Sandy, which hit at nearly high tide, created a storm surge that eroded beaches, breached boardwalks and seawalls and broke against buildings in oceanfront communities. Floodwater as high as 10 feet above ground level inundated the South Shore.

There are also plans for projects in Motts Basin North, a portion of the Town of Hempstead near the Queens border and what is being called Mid-Rockaway, including the neighborhoods of Arverne, Edgemere and Hammels. The projected cost of the Mid-Rockaway project, the most comprehensive of the three, is $222.5 million.

The work in Motts Basin North is expected to cost $3.16 million. A 2-foot floodwall would run north from the intersection of Alemeda Avenue and Waterfront Boulevard in Inwood, and turn east along the south side of Waterfront Boulevard for roughly 540 feet. It would then become a section of higher floodwall above the existing Motts Basin outfall pipe, extending east 47 feet before becoming a low floodwall for an additional 105 feet.

A valve chamber would be added to the existing Motts Basin outlet, which would include a sluice gate and flap valve to prevent high tides or storm surge from flooding the drainage system. The outlet pipes would be replaced if necessary. A small ditch would provide drainage along the landward side of the bulkhead. The existing drainage outlet, and another one, yet to be built, would be connected to the East Rockaway and Rockaway inlets.

The Mid-Rockaway project would include a series of natural features, such as berms and rock-and-stone structures to help ensure the protection of the shoreline, as well as bulkheads, a floodwall, two pumping stations and the replacement of existing outlet pipes if needed.

“The district is working with all agencies to ensure the safe future of the high school campus through the utilization of the recently awarded FEMA grants,” Lawrence School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “This ongoing project will be one that requires coordination with the Army Corps of Engineers and their work in other areas of our community.”

Lawrence was awarded $14.387 million for damage sustained in Hurricane Sandy nearly seven years ago — 90 percent of it, precisely $12,948,307.94, from FEMA, and the other 10 percent from New York state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. The district’s money is separate from the federal funds for the Army Corps projects.

Have an opinion about the flood mitigation plans? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.