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Long Beach officials: faulty jetties causing beach erosion

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The winner of Long Beach’s never-ending battle against nature seems all too obvious, at least at the southern end of Washington Boulevard: It’s the ocean.

The sand is disappearing rapidly on some areas of the beach, not only at Washington, but also at Neptune Boulevard, farther east. There sunbathers sit further back, toward the boardwalk.

At Washington beach there are huge gaps where there once was sand.

The situation is causing concern among some city officials, who are raising red flags with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which in 2018 completed work on replenishing sand on the beach and rehabilitating 18 jetties, or groins, from Point Lookout to the West End of Long Beach.

The first warnings came at the Sept. 1 City Council meeting, when Chief of Lifeguards Paul Gillespie told council members that at Washington and Neptune, “We are losing beaches.” Gillespie said he was unhappy with the work the Army Corp did, and suggested it was time for it to return to Long Beach and see what might be done.

“How can you leave the beach the way it is?” Gillespie said. “We are losing a tremendous amount of land.” He reminded the council that if the weather stays warm during the fall, a lot of people would continue to crowd the sand. “The people in Long Beach love their beach,” he said.

“The city did not accept the jetties as is,” City Council President John Bendo said. “The Army Corps of Engineers is to come back and inspect them at certain intervals over the next five years.” Bendo said the jetties were “settling,” which was causing the loss of sand.

“We are not satisfied with the work,” Bendo said. “The Army Corps of Engineers is still on the hook.”

John Mirando, the city’s public works commissioner, said in an interview that plans to shore up the jetties began after Hurricane Sandy decimated the city’s shoreline in 2012, and that the corps was not authorized to work on some of them. “Those beaches have lost sand,” he said, adding that he was concerned about beach erosion where the corps did not do the work. Washington and Neptune were among those areas.

In a statement last week, the corps noted that it began work on “selected groins” in Long Beach in the spring of 2017 “based on the engineered model recommendation for the best overall function for the project from Point Lookout to the west end of the City of Long Beach.” The statement went on to say that the corps had “conducted site visits and surveys of the groins in Long Beach. They are functioning successfully to hold the sand as designed. The appearance of the groins may shift over time, which is expected.”

In addition, the agency said it did not currently plan to repair the groins “as they are functioning as designed,” and that it was “not anticipating re-doing the work. The re-nourishment cycle for sand is estimated to be every 4-5 years in partnership with local and state partners,” the statement read. The corps planned to continue monitoring the situation, it said.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat who wrote to the corps about problems with sand erosion last year, said last week that some of the jetties the corps worked on were having problems. Kaminsky said he had been in contact with the corps about the problems, and would be again.

Kaminsky and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer sent a letter last December to the Army Corps’ commanding general, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, seeking a commitment to maintain the $130 million shoreline protection project, which was completed last year and was $100 million under budget. The original estimated cost was $230 million.

Even last year, Long Beach city officials and commissioners with the Town of Hempstead expressed concerns about the integrity of the project. The city and town have been reluctant to accept responsibility for the project and routine maintenance if repairs are needed in the future, Schumer and Kaminsky said.

The Army Corps turned the project over to New York State in 2019, and agreed last year to conduct annual inspections and maintenance before re-evaluating the project sometime in the next five years.

“The corps will continue to work with the state of New York and the City of Long Beach to ensure the groins continue to work as designed,” Army Corps spokesman Michael Embrich said last December. “There is no indication from anyone that they aren’t.”

Over the course of three years, Army Corps engineers built four new jetties in addition to rehabilitating the others, after nearly 300,000 cubic yards of sand were lost to Sandy. The new jetties have increased the size of the beach by effectively extending the shoreline.