A $30 million debris removal project is about to get underway on Fire Island two months after Superstorm Sandy devastated Long Island’s largest barrier beach.
Federal, New York State and local authorities are coordinating the cleanup effort with the goal of helping the island’s mostly car-free resort communities sweep away remnants of the storm in time for the Memorial Day kickoff to beach season.
“Fire Island has distinct challenges to face as we begin the process of clean-up, removal and disposal,” said Jerome M. Hauer, commissioner of the state Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services.
There are no roads to the 17 communities accessible only by ferry or private boats. Homeowners will be required to submit Right of Entry applications to authorize government workers to remove debris from private property. Officials are hopeful that they will get the OK to remove debris from at least 75 percent of the 4,500 homes on FI.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that local municipalities will provide homeowners with the form to sign and will post it online. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the project, which is slated to begin in January. The Federal Emergency Management Agency allocated the funding, which will also pay for demolishing destroyed homes.
“It is only through the support of the federal, state and local municipalities that a job of this magnitude can be accomplished in time for the summer season,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, who was elected the week after Sandy.
Ocean Beach Mayor James Mallott said the effort will help “to restore our village—and all of Fire Island—to full health.” Saltaire Mayor Robert Cox added that he appreciates the “spirit of cooperation” after Sandy “as we rebuild our infrastructure and beachfronts back to pre-storm condition.”
Suzy Goldhirsch, president of the Fire Island Association, said the next step will be to rebuild the dune system, which was decimated by the historic storm surge.
The island was also breached in two of its parks. A breach at Smith Point County Park was filled in and the Fire Island National Seashore has been monitoring a second breach at Old Inlet in the Otis Pike High Dune Winderness Area.