Skelos, Weisenberg, Murray And Ford Announce New Law Directing State To Dredge Jones Inlet And Restore Point Lookout Beaches

 

Senator Dean G. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford today announced that Governor Spitzer signed legislation into law specifically directing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") to complete the proposed dredging of Jones Inlet and deposit the resulting 700,000 cubic yards of sand on the severely-eroded beaches in Point Lookout.

"This is great news for the boaters who use Jones Inlet and residents of Point Lookout," said Senator Skelos. "By dredging 700,000 cubic yards of sand from Jones Inlet and reusing it to restore the beaches in Point Lookout, the state will address two critically-important environmental priorities. This project must begin as soon as possible. This new law will help accelerate that process and ensure that the state fulfills its responsibility to protect boaters from increasingly dangerous conditions and homeowners in the Point Lookout community."

"By signing this bill, Governor Spitzer has indicated that the state will protect the health and safety of local boaters and Point Lookout residents," said Assemblyman Weisenberg. "This bill is designed to protect life and property and make both Jones Inlet and the beaches in Point Lookout safe for people to use and enjoy."

"The Skelos/Weisenberg bill is vital to ensuring the safety of boaters navigating Jones Inlet and it will help protect the homes of Point Lookout residents from storm and tidal damage," said Supervisor Murray. "I want to thank Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Weisenberg for aggressively pushing to pass this bill through the Legislature and I’m grateful to Governor Spitzer for signing this measure into law. Now, I look forward to working closely with the Senator and Assemblyman to make sure that the Army Corps of Engineers begins dredging Jones Inlet and restoring our eroded shoreline this fall."

"First, I want to thank both Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Weisenberg for their hard work in securing this funding and passing this legislation," said Legislator Ford. "I also want to thank Governor Spitzer for signing this bill so that the project can take place. I am looking forward to the project being undertaken as soon as possible to protect the residents of Point Lookout. We have worked hard to complete this important project and, now, I’m very pleased that something will be done."

As sponsored by Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Weisenberg and unanimously passed by both houses of the State Legislature, S.6015/A.8878 will help ensure that this critically-important project is completed, regardless of the availability of federal funding. After appropriating $7.6 million to finance the dredging and beach restoration exclusively with state funds, Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Weisenberg have partnered with Supervisor Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the DEC, the Office of State Comptroller and the state Office of Attorney General to complete the necessary project agreement.

In a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers received on June 14, 2007, it confirmed that "the Corps stands ready to execute the agreement and initiate the three month contracting process leading to physical work commencement in October 2007."

Through this first-of-its-kind approach embodied in the proposed project agreement, the Army Corps of Engineers would manage the dredging and beach nourishment project, the state would fund the total cost (approximately $7 million) and the Town would indemnify the Army Corps for any liability. In addition, the Town would perform ongoing maintenance dredging and beach nourishment work in the future. Although this novel agreement received requisite approvals from the state Office of Attorney General, the Office of State Comptroller and, for more than one year, was jointly negotiated with the Army Corps of Engineers and the DEC, the DEC halted the agreement at its final stage in May. This new law was designed to supercede that administrative decision.

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Chronology of Point Lookout Beach Restoration

1997 – Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Weisenberg secure $25.2 million to fund the state share of the Long Beach Barrier Island Storm Damage Reduction Project

April 2006 - Long Beach City Councilvoted down participation in Long Beach Barrier Island Storm Damage Reduction Project. This terminated the federal commitment to this project.

June 2006 – Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Weisenberg reappropriate the $25.2 million for the Long Beach Barrier Island Storm Damage Reduction Project to (1) fund the entire cost of the Jones Inlet Dredging project ($7.6 million) and (2) for other future measures to restore the beaches in Point Lookout and Lido Beach.

July 2006 – Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Weisenberg begin working with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the Town of Hempstead and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a Support for Others Agreement through which the state would fund the Jones Inlet Dredging Project.

Fall 2006 – Through the efforts of Senator Skelos, Assemblyman Weisenberg and Supervisor Murray, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Town of Hempstead successfully negotiate a draft agreement whereby the state funds the project, the Army Corps of Engineers performs the dredging of Jones Inlet and deposition of sand on Point Lookout’s beaches and the Town of Hempstead will indemnify the Army Corps for any resulting liability and provide ongoing maintenance dredging services.

December 2006 – The Town of Hempstead formally acts to indemnify the Army Corps of Engineers and both the Office of State Comptroller and the NYS Attorney General’s Office approve applicable provisions of the proposed Support for Others Agreement.

May 2006 – The NYS Attorney General’s Office approves various legal/procedural issues that impede execution of the final Support for Others Agreement.

May 2006 – NYS Department of Environmental Conservation withdraws support for proposed Support for Others Agreement.

June 2006 – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers formally states that it "stands ready to execute the agreement and initiate the three month contracting process leading to physical work commencement in October 2007" and, reinforcing the importance of proceeding under the state-funded Support for Others Agreement, noted that "the Jones Inlet project still falls well short of the one million tons of commerce necessary to be considered a high use commercial navigation channel" and will "not compete well for scarce Federal funding."

June 2006 – NYS Senate and NYS Assembly unanimously pass legislation directing the state Department of Environmental Conservation to proceed with the Jones Inlet dredging project.

July 2006 - Governor Spitzer signs legislation.