Federal Budget has Funds for Flood-fighting Projects

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Posted February 13, 2018

The just-approved federal budget includes hundreds of millions of dollars for flood-fighting public works to ward off powerful storms, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

New York’s qualifying projects include:

- The Fire Island to Montauk Point plan, which would shield 83 miles of Suffolk oceanfront.

- The Rockaway and Jamaica Bay Reformulation plan, which could safeguard the densely populated Rockaways and Kennedy Airport.

- The Staten Island South Shore Sea Wall, which would defend its coast with a seven-mile-long, elevated promenade.

Nearly $730 million — left over from other post-Sandy projects undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers — was “trapped in limbo,” Schumer said, and the Treasury might have reclaimed it.

“These funds are an insurance policy that will allow the Army Corps to move forward with critical storm protection projects,” Schumer said in a statement.

The Army Corps’ partner for these projects, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said its “focus continues to be strengthening coastal resiliency and reducing risk.”

More than a few hurdles remain, however.

The project on Suffolk’s southern shore would build dunes and marshes, and raise or flood-proof 4,400 homes, officials said. The DEC said the federal agency could issue a final plan in late 2018.

The Army Corps wanted it finalized by 2016.

A draft, issued two years ago, was criticized on several fronts, from the cost of replenishing dunes on Fire Island to whether there were too many or too few buyouts on the mainland.

The final report also will require public comments.

Construction might start in 2020, the DEC said.

Still, New York may have to compete for money with other Sandy-hit states working with the Army Corps on flood plans.

Congress only gave the Army Corps $5 billion for all post-Sandy work.

And the cost of just New York’s projects far exceeds the new money Schumer secured.

The senator’s office said Schumer was committed to working to secure any additional funds each project may need.

Further, New York has many of the nation’s coastal residents, which underscores how vital these projects are, Schumer said.

The plan for Suffolk alone is expected to cost $1.2 billion, well over the $750 million estimated in 2013.

A “reinforced dune” to shield the Rockaways, with sand poured over a metal structure, likely will be built before the Jamaica Bay plan, as it may include a much costlier surge barrier.

Two years ago, the Army Corps pegged a Rockaways plan at $500 million, and building a bay-crossing barrier at $4.5 billion.

DEC and Army Corps officials could not immediately provide estimates for the cost or timing of the Rockaways or Jamaica Bay projects.

Plans for Jamaica Bay have been shifted into a broader Army Corps study of protecting all of New York Harbor, possibly with surge barriers, the DEC said.

Staten Island’s sea wall, now being designed with work expected to start by late 2019, could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, it said.

Federal taxpayers will pay the full cost of building the projects for Suffolk, the Rockaways and Jamaica Bay.

They only will contribute 65 percent of the cost of Staten Island’s sea wall; New York State’s share is 25 percent and New York City must put in 10 percent, the DEC said.

Last year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the sea wall will protect coastal residents from flooding, create wetlands, and give bikers and hikers new paths.

Source: Newsday