Army Corps resists calls from Long Beach officials for more jetty repairs to combat erosion

John Asbury for Newsday

Originally published in Newsday

Long Beach officials are asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rehabilitate jetties and replace sand that is disappearing on the beach.

The Army Corps completed a $130 million shoreline protection project last year, including rehabilitating 18 groins and jetties and building four new jetties between Long Beach and Point Lookout.

Engineers repaired 15 of the 22 jetties in Long Beach, based on a federally funded engineering plan approved in 1986 by the federal government. The new jetties were designed to collect sand to prevent erosion and offer storm protection from the ocean.

City officials said last week that beaches along the seven jetties that were not repaired are eroding and narrowing the shoreline, particularly around beaches off Washington and Neptune boulevards.

“They never did them,” said lifeguard chief Paul Gillespie. “They have to redo them to have any effectiveness to collect sand. The beaches are shrinking.”

Army Corps officials said the shoreline protection project was reviewed and completed using Sandy disaster relief funds in 2013. Army Corps officials said the groin and jetty rehabilitation project was based on a comprehensive coastal storm risk management model and needed to compete fiscally on a national level for funding during an initial feasibility report.

“When they started the project, those jetties had deteriorated and they didn’t add them to the project,” said John Mirando, the city’s Public Works director. “When those beaches weren’t done, there’s greater distance from the jetties and more beach erosion in those areas. Sand is not being trapped and moving more, and the beach is narrower.”

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The Army Corps used 3.2 million cubic yards of sand to widen the beach and reinforce sand dunes, including building dunes in front of the boardwalk. The project extended the beach 150 feet from Long Beach to Point Lookout and came in $100 million under budget.

“The groins that were reconstructed on the Long Beach coastal storm risk reduction project were viewed as a whole to protect the City of Long Beach and provide a buffer for the entire community — not just a single location,” Army Corps spokesman James D’Ambrosio said. “During the subsequent pre-construction, engineering and design phase, there was no justification to add additional groins in the City of Long Beach. The groin field is functioning as designed and functioning effectively.”

City officials said the jetties that were rebuilt off the beach are now separating, with boulders sinking into the ocean because they were not built with a gravel base.

The Army Corps has agreed to conduct annual inspections and maintenance on the jetties and to reevaluate the project every five years.

Army Corps officials said there are no plans to reconstruct any of the jetties not included in the original project because “it could not be justified or competitive on a national level on an individual basis.”

“Coastal engineers studied the rates of erosion and carefully arranged the locations of the rehabilitations to provide the best possible reduction in erosion for the project,” D’Ambrosio said. “Groins and other erosion-control features work in concert with beach replenishment to reduce erosion as much as possible. However, no features can totally eliminate erosion. The project is comprised of sand and groin reconstruction which enhances the capability to protect Long Beach Island, as a whole, from ocean-side storms.”

City officials, joined by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), have called on the Army Corps to do additional work to fix the jetties and prevent erosion.

“It was a mistake for the plan to be limited,” Kaminsky said. “We’re going to see serious erosion on the beaches. It’s worth pushing the Army Corps to think about doing something the next time they come to do work in Long Beach.”