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Army Corps awards $37M contract for dune project

Suffolk County-based H&L Contracting to begin work on barrier island’s jetties

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $37 million contract to a Bay Shore-based construction and engineering firm to begin the first phase of a long-awaited coastal protection project for the barrier island in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice announced Wednesday that the contract was awarded to H&L Contracting LLC to start work on the $209 million project after a formal bidding process was completed, and officials say that shovels could soon be in the ground.

“Long Beach is officially well on its way towards a more resilient waterfront and a more hardened shoreline between East Rockaway Inlet and Jones Inlet,” Schumer said in a statement. “Now that a contract has been awarded, shovels will soon be in the ground and Long Beach homeowners and businesses will soon be better protected in the event of another storm.”

The project calls for a system of berms, dunes and groins, or jetties, that would provide protection against major storms along approximately seven of the nine miles of public shoreline between Jones Inlet and East Rockaway Inlet, including Long Beach, Point Lookout and Lido Beach. The City Council voted to back the project in March 2013 after a similar plan, proposed in 2006, was rejected.

“We are extremely pleased to see that Contract One has been awarded,” City Council Vice President Anthony Eramo said in a statement. “…Once completed, for the first time in this city’s history, our community will finally have an engineered beach to help defend against flooding, an enormous step forward in our mission to rebuild a stronger, smarter and safer Long Beach.”

The initial phase of the project calls for the rehabilitation of 18 existing groins, and the construction of six additional groins, according to the Army Corps. Four groins will be built first, and based on their effectiveness, the Corps will decide whether two more should be built, the agency said. 

“The Long Beach dune rehabilitation and protection project is a priority for our district, and this contract is a major first step toward building a stronger, more resilient shoreline that will better protect coastal communities like Long Beach when the next storm hits,” Rice said in a statement.

Work is scheduled to begin this spring, though Army Corps public affairs specialist James D’Ambrosio told the Herald last month that a specific start date and construction schedule has yet to be determined.

“Construction will require some short-term patience and understanding from the public as we work to put these long-term risk mitigation and resiliency measures in place for this important coastal storm risk management project,” Col. David Caldwell, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New York District, said in a statement.

Though the contract only covers the first part of the project, the second phase, estimated to begin after the groin construction and rehabilitation, involves the placement of an estimated 4.7 million cubic yards of sand for the dunes and beach, D’Ambrosio said.

Dune construction would progress from east to west, beginning in Point Lookout, Jim LaCarrubba, the commissioner of Long Beach’s Department of Public Works, told the Herald in February. According to estimates provided to the city, workers would build 1,000 feet of dunes per week. Sections of the beach would be closed off during construction, LaCarubba said, which the Army Corps is projecting to start at the end of 2017 following phase one.

The Army Corps has worked with H&L on numerous projects in the past. Last year, it awarded the firm an $8.4 million contract to protect a section of the Montauk shoreline from erosion, according to media reports. The corps also tapped H&L to make “critical” repairs to Coney Island Beach in 2014, a $25 million project involving the construction of jetties and beach replenishment aimed at protecting the peninsula and preventing further erosion after Sandy, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

In Long Beach, the new project is designed to withstand the equivalent of a 100-year storm — a storm that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year, the corps said. Sandy, which caused $200 million in damage in Long Beach, was a 180-year storm, Army Corps officials told residents at a meeting in 2014, explaining that although the barriers in the current proposal would have been “overtopped,” they would have dramatically reduced the damage.

“Ensuring the strength and resiliency of our coasts is crucial to preparing Long Island for future storms,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “The Long Beach dune project will help protect the safety of local residents as well as the integrity of the infrastructure that they rely on. I am pleased to see progress on this critical project, and will continue to work with Senator Schumer to strengthen New York’s coastal communities.”