2000-11-04 / Front Page

Feds Replenish Beaches

By John C. McLoughlin

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began maintenance dredging in the East Rockaway Inlet this week, with placement of dredged material along miles of Rockaway’s eroded beaches. This replenishment project occurs just as Congress approved legislation tackling beach erosion throughout the country.

Engineers will dredge the East Rockaway Inlet 12 feet deep to pump 1.5 million cubic yards of sand from the ocean floor onto the beaches from Beach 22 to Beach 42 street, Beach 67 to Beach 82 street, and Beach 89 to Beach 116 street.

Some beaches in Far Rockaway, Edgemere and Arverne have been closed for years because of erosion. Worsening erosion is evident between Beach 30 and 40 streets, where the surf often rolls up to and past the boardwalk.

During the replenishment project, engineers will also use sand to cover old pilings on the beach and in the water. Depending on weather, the project could be completed in the spring.

In preparation of the project, a crane arrived offshore near Beach 9 street on Monday morning.

About $3.2 million was spent last year on beach replenishment and restoration for the Rockaways. Although this helps to temporarily reduce the effects of erosion, residents have advocated long-term solutions.

The Army Corps of Engineers is moving forward with a study to construct jetties at specific beach points to help prevent erosion.

Congress also approved the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2000) earlier this week. This bill funds various beach restoration projects across the country, with money allocated to the Rockaways.

Included in this bill is a provision that directs government officials to place a dollar value on the economic benefits received by government from the local to the national level that are derived from the recreational use of beaches. Since the mid-1980’s, recreational beach benefits have been all-but-ignored by Congress in favor of the storm damage reduction benefits that beach restoration provides.

Howard Marlowe, president of the American Coastal Coalition, said the use of the word "recreation" in the legislation "will result in a full accounting of all the benefits which taxpayers derive from restoring an eroded beach." He continued by saying, "It will open the federal program to parts of the country whose eroded shorelines would otherwise not be eligible for assistance because the region was not highly developed."

The dredging and beach replenishment is being coordinated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Coast Guard, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYC Department of State.

Through an environmental assessment of the maintenance dredging and replenishment of designated beaches, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined "no significant adverse environmental impact on water quality, marine resources, wildlife, endangered species, recreation, aesthetics, and flood protection."

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