“‘Where’s the sand?” is the question on the minds of many in Rockaway as another month goes by without beach replenishment.
Weeks Marine, which has been awarded the contract on this project, has reported that the necessary pipe and shore equipment should arrive by February 14th, but pumping will not start until March, according to the Army Corps.
Community activists, John Cori and Eddie Pastore, have expressed concern that this major project has not yet begun.
“We keep being told, ‘another week, another’ week,” Cori said. “We just want to get this started. We’re supposed to see the sand by now.”
Under the direction of the Army Corps the project plan is to dredge offshore sand to not only refill Rockaway beaches eroded by Hurricane Sandy, but also supply at least temporary shore protection.
The project was originally set to begin in September, 2013, but has been postponed several times since then.
As of last week work was set to begin in mid- February but the date has now been moved to March 1st.
“The problem,” Cori says, “is that with these delays there is no real timeline.”
What’s the hold up?
According to Daniel Falt, project manager with the Army Corps of Engineers, “One of the issues is that, since this is water-based construction, there are only four or five companies that do this type of work.”
Weeks Marine is “on multiple projects, Falt said, “So there is a wait while resources are shifted.
“We are meeting with them next week on site to discuss the beginning of operations.”
Citing significant delays with various other contractors on Army Corps projects on Long Island and in New Jersey, Falt noted, “Our contract language unfortunately does not have very strong leverage to force a contractor to arrive or even finish on time.”
Reached in Albany about the delays, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder noted this issue has struck very close to home for him. “I’m speaking as a representative,” he said, “and as someone who lives and works in Rockaway. So I am in harm’s way (as much) as anyone.
“I have been in constant contact with the Army Corps through their Washington office.
“We have been waiting and talking about dredging for years. So in our terms we’re very anxious to get it going. On the other hand, we do know it is a process, things need to be assembled. It takes time to get this done.
“I want to see it done tomorrow, but we have made more progress in the past year than we have in the past 10 years.”
“It’s unfortunate that it’s taken a natural disaster to get this to happen, but it’s now underway.
“If there is such a thing as a silver lining to this tragedy we’ve been through, this is it,” Goldfeder concluded.
Both Falt and Goldfeder pointed to the larger issue facing Rockaway and Broad Channel: protection.
The good news, Falt stated, is that “the new beach renourishment will have even higher dunes.”
When completed the dunes will be six feet above the original level of the beach, which is two feet higher than called for in an earlier project contract.
“These dunes will provide, by our estimation, protection from storms from the 50 to 100 year severity (range),” Falt confirmed.
“The City intends to plant these dunes to keep them in place for as long as possible.”
In the long run, both Goldfeder and Falt noted, the beach replenishment is just the first, short term step.
The Beach Reformation Study, as Falt explains, will present the most viable options for permanent, long term protection. This would include an area that starts at the Rockaway Inlet at Beach 9th Street, takes in both the beach and bay shorelines of the Rockaway peninsula as well as Jamaica Bay, and circles back to Far Rockaway on the bay side.
Although started more than 10 years ago, the study has had many starts and stops due to funding.
Now fully funded, the Army Corps confirms, its results are scheduled to be presented for public comment in March.
John Cori expressed concern that that waiting will impact Rockaway’s economy as it pushes the project further into summer, and leaves Rockaway exposed to possible destructive storms and erosion.