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Army Corps Expediting Coastal Repairs on Long Island; Sand Placement Expected This Fall

New York District personnel, along with community residents and staff from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), get a close-up view of the erosion at Fire Island Pines on New York’s Long Island. A series of severe storms this past fall and winter eroded the south shore of Long Island.

Posted on May 27, 2024

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, has received funding for planning and design for emergency sand placement on Long Island’s Fire Island (50 miles east of New York City) following a series of powerful winter storms that severely eroded Army Corps’ coastal projects and protective dunes.

New York District Commander Col. Alexander Young Stated: “We’re pleased to move forward with these critical emergency repairs for Fire Island communities at risk for flooding and storm damage. All processes are being expedited to restore coastal areas as soon as possible.”

Meeting With Residents

Last month, New York’s Leadership traveled to Fire Island and met with residents from several shoreline communities, providing updates on planned sand replenishment and a question-and-answer session. Afterwards, they toured areas of the coastline that have been severely eroded, leaving nearby homes and structures vulnerable. Sand placement is anticipated this fall.

New York District’s Chief of Coastal and Special Projects Branch Anthony Ciorra noted: “This past fall and winter brought a string of severe storms that we haven’t seen in many years. While there’s substantial requirements for a project of this magnitude, New York is fast-tracking these to complete the work as soon as possible.”

Nature of Storms

The storms that impacted Fire Island are known as nor’easters ⎼ seasonal storms traveling up the East Coast of the U.S., gaining moisture and wind speed. The winds create tidal surges that erode the coastline (sometimes for several tide cycles for slow-moving systems.) Some had winds in excess of 50 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 70.

Funding for repairs is through Public Law 84-99, legislation that governs emergency response to previously-constructed Army Corps projects damaged by severe storms. Guidelines procuring these funds were very stringent; New York, in collaboration with federal and state partners, worked tirelessly to obtain the funds to help communities vulnerable to flooding as hurricane season begins June 1.

Full Restoration

Army Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C., has approved full restoration of these Army Corps projects to their original design profile. That means, after sand placement, residents will see a wider coastline than has been seen in many years.

District engineers are completing surveys of existing topographical conditions ─ information essential to sand placement ─ that is expected to be complete in June. The emergency repairs also include restoration of damaged dunes and vehicle and pedestrian cross-overs for beach access.

The sand-placement will cover approximately 44,000 linear feet ─ nearly 9 miles ─ and includes five communities: Seaview, Ocean Bay Park, Cherry Grove, Fire Island Pines and Davis Park. An estimated 1.7 million cubic yards of sand will be needed to complete the project. Sand will be sourced from an approved off-shore borrow area a mile offshore (Atlantic Ocean) where New York already has a dredging permit in place.

Federal and State Partners

The District is working closely with the National Park Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Suffolk County and Brookhaven Township to coordinate efforts. Given the sheer size and scope of the project and fast-tracking execution, an in-depth video teleconference was held with stakeholders and potential contractors to discuss project details and an accelerated schedule for completing tasks, i.e., legal agreements with local municipalities, soliciting bids, selecting a contractor, awarding a contract and mobilizing equipment to begin work.

Fire Island History & Storms

In addition to seasonal storms this year, Fire Island ⎼ directly facing the Atlantic Ocean to the south ⎼ has historically been impacted by hurricanes. The last major hurricane to impact the barrier island was Sandy in 2012 that resulted in widespread damage and coastal erosion, and carving breaches allowing water to flow between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great South Bay. Sandy also flattened protective dunes; however, the dunes absorbed wave energy from the tidal surge and kept damage from becoming worse.

On September 21,1938, ‘The Great Hurricane of 1938’ struck with little warning (without satellite technology, people relied on reports from ocean-going vessels.) Some 200 homes on Fire Island were completely destroyed and the community of Saltaire was split in half ⎼ creating one of many inlets that formed that day.

A 31-mile string of barrier beaches with 19 distinct communities, Fire Island was an important whaling center during the 18th and 19th centuries when whaling and fishing were lucrative industries. In 1825 the federal government constructed the Fire Island Lighthouse at the western end of Fire Island, serving as a landmark for transatlantic ships coming into New York Harbor at the turn of century in 1900. For many European immigrants, it was their first sight of land arriving in America.


A pedestrian bridge damaged by severe storms this past fall and winter.


New York District Chief of Coastal and Special Projects Branch Anthony Ciorra (left) and New York District Commander Col. Alexander Young converse with a resident of Fire Island Pines on New York’s Long Island.


New York District Commander Col. Alexander Young meets a first responder during a recent site visit to Fire Island Pines on New York’s Long Island.


Erosion along the south shore of Long Island, New York, leaves homes vulnerable to flooding from severe storms. The New York District will be renourishing the beaches this fall.


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