Nov 25 2012

 

 

Fire-island

Some of the beach communities located on the barrier island of Fire Island have been hit hard. Especially the Ocean Beach area which was devastated by the massive storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. Out of the 4,000 homes on the barrier island well over 200 have been completed destroyed and 80% of the others suffered damage.

In fact, Fire Island got off relatively easy compared to other communities because the Island had massive sand dunes up to twenty feet tall that protected most homes from being swept out to sea. Many of the beachfront homes in the Pines and Cherry Grove section were seriously damaged but remain structurally sound and can be repaired.

The 32 mile long barrier island has new inlets and it has undergone environmental changes. Most importantly the protective dunes are totally gone. If there is another severe Nor'easter this winter all of the homes could suffer major damage since they are now totally unprotected.

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Bloomberg Businessweek has an article about the situation.

"Because of its remoteness, officials have only begun in the past week or so to allow the residents, and the others who own vacation homes and businesses, to return and assess the damage.

Retired electrical contractor Hyman Portnoy, whose two-story oceanfront home in the village of Ocean Beach suffered damage to its large deck, said rebuilding the dunes is a major concern.

"We haven't got any protection now," he said. "I'd be satisfied with anything. I'd be satisfied with a pile."

Suzy Goldhirsch, president of the Fire Island Association, which represents businesses and homeowners, noted that homeowners in many Fire Island communities — there are 17 different villages and hamlets — pay part of their property taxes to maintain the dunes.

But she expects the federal government will be asked to fund some of the dune restoration, arguing that maintaining the barrier island serves to protect not just Fire Island, but also the homes of the 3 million Long Islanders on the mainland.

Critics of federal funding of beach and dune replenishment say U.S. taxpayers shouldn't pick up the tab for beaches enjoyed by only a fraction of the population. Replenishment backers counter that Congress has approved recovery funds for other disasters including Hurricane Katrina and last year's tornadoes in Missouri."

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"The Atlantic Ocean breached the narrow island in three places. Two of the breaches are being closed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the National Park Service is evaluating whether a third breach should be closed by the Army Corps or allowed to close naturally.

As far as rebuilding, many jurisdictions — federal, state, county, town and local — will have a say in what can and can't be rebuilt, said Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Chris Soller. New York state has regulations about who can rebuild in some designated coastal erosion zones, although an official with the town of Brookhaven, which oversees some of the westernmost communities of the island's 17 hamlets and villages, said special variances could be issued in some cases to allow rebuilding in those zones.

Fire Island, like many Northeast communities harmed by Sandy, is beginning to reassess where and how to rebuild, Goldhirsch said"