2014-03-14 / Front Page

Army Corps Talks

Plovers And Sand Plans
By Kevin Boyle

The long awaited sand replenishment project is now scheduled to begin March 22nd. While the start date is likely, the rest of the plan is “fluid” according to Project Manager Dan Falt of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The plan in place is for Weeks Marine to begin pumping sand between Beach 59th and Beach 39th Streets and hurry to finish that stretch because –no fooling, April 1st — begins piping plover season.

This is Phase 2 of a massive sand dump that will give Rockaway beaches more sand than it has had in decades. Phase 1 concluded shortly after Labor Day. The original plan called for Weeks Marine to begin Phase 2 in September, 2013 and finish well ahead of the 2014 summer season. Instead, the company decided to take its pipes elsewhere for several months and will now conduct its operation through the spring and for most of the summer, and possibly into the fall.

The Weeks Marine decision to put off the September start caused and continues to cause considerable uncertainty. Much of this uncertainly centers around the imminent arrival of the piping plover.

The piping plover beaches are protected from April 1st through September 1st. Fish and Wildlife, the agency overseeing plover protection, has said the protected areas for the birds covers more than three miles, from Beach 73rd Street to Beach 19th Street.

The exact boundaries and restrictions, however, seem somewhat malleable or like sand dunes, ever-changing. The restrictions on the boardwalk rebuild, for instance, appear to be more extensive than the sand replenishment project about to get underway. As it stands, the Army Corps and Weeks Marine must focus their initial efforts in the area of Beach 59th to Beach 39th Street.

If the project begins March 22nd, Weeks Marine will have a nine-day window to pump what it can in that stretch of beach. Once April 1st arrives, plans become more “fluid.”

The Army Corps must follow the orders of the Fish and Wildlife agency before continuing sand replenishment. Where and when birds show up may determine the course of action. Birds are afforded 1,000 feet of protection.

It is likely that some of the restricted areas will be done last, in the fall. Under this scenario, many heavily used beaches (by humans) would get new sand before the summer.

Although no starting dates are certain, Weeks Marine has calculated the following: Beach 59th to Beach 86th Street will take 30 days; Beach 86th to Beach 114th Street, 30 days; Beach 114th to Beach 141st Street, 30 days; Beach 141st to Beach 149th Street, 11 days.

The sand pumping is a 24/7 operation. If Weeks Marine starts the Beach 59th Street segment on April 1st, Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Park, and Belle Harbor should be done by the Fourth of July.

Scheduling uncertainty aside, when the last grain of sand is dropped, more than 3 million cubic yards will have been spread across more than six miles of oceanfront. The new beach will have dunes 16 feet high and extend 100 feet further than in recent years.

Falt, a project manager with the Corps and a Rockaway resident himself, addressed the Community Board on Tuesday evening, providing updates on sand replenishment and the Reformulation Study, the grand plan that will address erosion and beach and bayside protection.

Falt said the Army Corps has narrowed choices, or screened alternatives, and will have more to offer by the summer. Generally, the Army Corps prefers to use sand only as its beach and dune replenishment method. In the case of Rockaway because of its unique features and urban setting the Army Corps is considering groins (jetties), t-groins, reinforced dunes, breakwaters or a combination of any or all of these.

One possible option that is getting serious consideration is a reinforced dune with a buried seawall. The dunes being erected now would be reconfigured and strengthened if that option is chosen.

Computer modeling, used to simulate weather, tide, and wave conditions, is being used to determine the best options.

Falt emphasized that renourishment will always be needed in Rockaway. The goal of the plan is to reduce the frequency and amount of renourishment.

The Army Corps will also use a “cost benefit analysis” in determining solutions. For example, one structure might cost more than another initially but if that structure lends itself to fewer beach nourishment projects in the future, the short-term higher price might be the wiser economic choice.

On the bayside, the plans are only in a preliminary stage. Dunes, bulkheads, gates, wetlands, reefs, revetments, and permanent evacuation for some areas might be recommended.

Falt said any comprehensive plan will require the joint efforts and cooperation of the New York Department of Environmental Control, the City Parks Department, the National Park Service, and the public.

The western end of the peninsula, including Fort Tilden and Breezy Point, fall under the purview of the National Park Service. Matters of beach protection and public access are among the issues being discussed.

By the summer, the computer modeling may determine the best course of action. But no computer can say when any of this will start.

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