Long Beach shoreline restoration project runs seven months ahead of schedule

Construction to repair erosion in Long Beach caused by Superstorm Sandy.

By Lamia Choudhury and Desiree D’Iorio

The massive shoreline restoration project in Long Beach undertaken to repair damaged caused by Superstorm Sandy will be finished by January 2019, seven months ahead of schedule, a spokesperson for the project’s manager said.

The City of Long Beach approved the extensive beach restoration project to extend the beach with sand, rebuild 15 jetties and create 16-foot-high sand dunes to act as barriers against the waves. Construction didn’t start until Winter of 2017.

“There was no delay,” Michael Emberich, who works for Public Affairs at Army Corps of Engineering, the company taking on this massive task, said. “There is a federal process this has to go through. We have to get Congress to back it, there’s permits, approvals, awarding contracts, starting contracts and then construction.”

It was scheduled to be completed by the end of August, 2019 but Emberich said it will be done in January.

City Council members voted unanimously in July to approve a noise variance so that work could continue around the clock prior to the peak of hurricane season.

“Even though they’re doing it 24 hours a day now, it hasn’t been that bad,” Timmy Titus, a Long Beach resident, said. His apartment building directly faces the beach. “You hear some banging but nothing serious.”

Erosion is the biggest problem during hurricanes, Henry Bokuniewicz, a professor of Marine and Atmospheric Science at Stony Brook University, said. The waves chip away at the sand and then come onto land causing floods.

“If you were down here for Sandy, you’d understand that they have to do something,” Titus said. “Cars were floating down this road,” he said, pointing at Shore Road, the first street running parallel to the beach.

The jetties were completed this past winter. New pedestrian walkways will be built over the dunes, connecting the boardwalk to the beach. Crews are now working on dredging sand to extend the length of the beach and construct the dunes.

In projects like these, it can be difficult to secure so much sand.

“It has to be the right kind of sand,” Bokuniewicz said, “it has to match the rest of the beach and be the same. The problem is finding that amount of sand. And if you do, it might be in a good fishing area or have pipelines running through it or there might be competition for it.”

Almost two years into the project, Laurie Mclarin, a resident at an assisted living facility in Long Beach, said “It’s progress. It has to be done.” The building she lives in is adjacent to the boardwalk.

“Nothing will protect against a hurricane,” Charlie Massa, another Long Beach assisted living resident, said. “You have to expect anything [when you live] on the water.”

The City Council did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Projects like these are not rare in coastal communities but this one was particularly difficult because of the significant amount of damage.

“This isn’t a cure but it’s a treatment,” Bokuniewicz said. He likened the shoreline protection project to taking medication for high cholesterol. “It’ll manage it but it will have to be done again in a few years.”