Hurricane recovery continues full time and the Association is very involved. The four big topics are beach replenishment, debris removal, residential repair and boardwalk reconstruction.
This is a constantly changing picture as things develop. We are working extensively with the other Fire Island Communities, the Fire Island Association and the Brookhaven and County Government. Senators Schumer and Gillabrand and Congressman Bishop are actively involved. On Monday the Senate passed the Hurricane Sandy relief bill and this contains funding for beach replenishment. As I mentioned in my December letter we have been pursuing several projects as we were not sure which would be a go. It appears at this time that the picture is clarifying.
Army Corps Project
The Senate bill included financing for a long delayed Fire Island to Montauk Point Project (FIMP). This project is very complex and only a small part of it would be beach replenishment. It is not likely to result in an immediate beach replenishment project because there is still much work to be done on the overall project. We have met yesterday with the Army Corps of Engineers to explain that we cannot wait several years. The Corps indicated that it will take over from FEMA responsibility in this area and they will do an "emergency stabilization" along Fire Island. This project will be along the lines of the 2009 renourishment project. It our understanding, that the Corps would fund 100% of the project. Our Senators and Congressman have been very involved in directing the Corps in this area. The FIMP project will then be imposed over the emergency stabilization. We have pressed the need for this project to go in before next winter and we will be pushing for that through our senators and congressman. This project would be very desirable for Fire Island. I would like to caution everyone that all of this has changed before and while I anticipate the project will happen, there is no guarantee at this point.
Five Year Project
Planning for this project has continued as we only learned of the Corps project in the last few days. The Corps project will replace this project. Further discussion of this project appears to be unnecessary at this time.
Trap Bag Project
The trap bag project is designed to run a length of trap bags along the whole oceanfront of the Pines. These are 3'x 3' x 3' bags that are open at the top. We have an application pending with the DEC to do a limited scraping of the beach to fill the bags. Approval is expected within the next week. In a similar project in Saltaire the DEC conditioned the permit on covering the trap bags with sand from off island and removing the trap bags when a renourishment project goes in. The requirement of the sand covering is an onerous requirement as it would add $500,000 to the cost of the project to the Pines. Our application requests that the permit be conditioned on covering with a sand colored mesh netting which is of minimal cost. The reason for the requirement of the sand covering is to create a more natural environment for piping plover nesting which begins in April. Our thinking was that the mesh coupled with grass planting would create the desired natural environment. This project will include snow fencing in front of the trap bags and grass planting on the top.
At the same time that we are pursuing the DEC permit for this project, we are also pursuing the necessary funding. We have asked the Town to front the cost. The Town finance commissioner has been favorable. A request will be on the Town Council agenda for next Tuesday night. I will be attending to plead our case. The goal is to have the trap bag project go in for March after the ocean front debris has been removed and before the piping plover season commences. We will also be seeking Town financing for the five year project in the event the Army Corps project doesn't happen. I anticipate that the Army Corps project will be finalized before the Town actually bonds for the five year project.
We are pursuing all three projects and remaining as flexible as possible as we navigate a constantly changing picture. It is important that we keep our options open. The goal is to get a renourishment project in before next winter. In the event that the trap bag project cannot go in during March we will proceed to do an immediate sand fencing project. Beach renourishment is a complex picture and we need to be patient as we navigate through it. I am confident that one of the long term projects will go in and we will do the short term project to get us to the long term project.
The contractor for debris removal was announced today. The project will be done by DS3 Enterprises of Central Islip for $8,837,388. An unresolved and important issue to the Pines is where the ocean front debris is to be moved to. The Town has identified a location just east of the Pines. FINS has not agreed. We have asked the Army Corps and Suffolk County to press FINS. I am hoping now that the contractor has been selected, the contractor can make this happen. Other homeowners with hurricane debris should put it out where they regularly put their trash.
The Brookhaven Town Board passed a resolution which, effective immediately, revised the zoning code to permit Fire Island owners of legal, non-conforming houses (whether on conforming or non-conforming lots) to rebuild their houses and accessory structures after fire, flood, or other natural disaster without having to return to the Board of Zoning Appeals to re-obtain their previously issued variances. This change aligns the language in the Brookhaven code with that of the National Seashore code, and should make rebuilding much easier for Fire Island residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The new provisions do not override or eliminate existing NY State Coastal Erosion Hazard Area (CEHA) regulations which are also administered by Brookhaven.
We have good news, the Highway Department began repairs today at the east end of the Pines. They will divide their time this week between the Pines and Davis Park. They will return full time to the Pines next week. At this time the repairs will be to the walks inside the community and not the walk and stairs going to the beach.
Breach at Old Inlet
FIPPOA has sent a letter to FINS asking them to implement its promise to close the breach after sixty days. This letter was also signed by the presidents of Davis Park, Cherry Grove and Water Island homeowners association. In addition the FIA Board has sent a similar letter. WE have also reached out to Senator Gillibrand. This matter has become complicated because of the number of government agencies involved and by opposition by environmental groups.
On other matters, the Pavilion is continuing with its rebuilding project. The goal is to have the new building online by mid-May. Framing is underway at this time and has reached the second floor. We are continuing to pursue AT&T to put a cell phone tower on Whyte Hall. We have also been contacted by Verizon Wireless which wants to place a very large tower/pole on Whyte Hall to serve all of Fire Island. We will keep you posted on these developments.