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PHOTO CAPTION:  Col. Paul E. Owen, commander of the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Corps personnel discuss the impacts of Hurricane Sandy to the coastline and the dunes at Westhampton Beach in Long Island while seeing the area Nov. 16, 2012. The dunes were severely impacted, but performed as designed, helping mitigate impacts to the nearby community. (Photo by Chris Gardner)

November 4, 2013
By Chris Gardner and New York District

NEW YORK (Oct. 29, 2013) -- When Hurricane Sandy struck the northeastern United States, a lot of its impacts were immediately obvious. From destroyed structures to massive power outages to flooding of communities and infrastructure like many had never seen before, the storm left its mark throughout the region. One of Sandy's less obvious impacts at first was the damage it caused to engineered beaches throughout the region, including those in New York City and Long Island.

Many people don't realize it, but a lot of beaches -- like Coney Island in New York City, for example, that people often take for granted as being great recreational spots -- were actually engineered and constructed to reduce risks from coastal storms like Sandy.

While Sandy exceeded the design criteria for risk-reduction projects in the region, the projects in place did help to soften the storm's impact on the property and infrastructure that reside behind them. In taking great amounts of sand, the hurricane left the communities potentially more vulnerable to impacts of future coastal storms, officials said.

Immediately following the storm, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent crews out to beaches throughout the region to assess the hurricane's impacts and determine how much sand was lost so engineers could begin working toward repairing the coastal risk-reduction projects. The Corps has a standing authority from the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies Act (PL 84-99) to repair these projects after massive storms and restore them to their pre-storm conditions. Crews quickly went to work preparing to carry out this mission.

In early 2013, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (PL 113-2, better known as the Sandy Relief Bill) was passed and it authorized the Corps of Engineers to not only repair engineered beach projects by replacing the sand lost during Sandy, but to also restore them to their original design profiles. PL 113-2 also provided the funding necessary to carry out this mission.

ROCKAWAY BEACH

This new authority meant the Corps could reduce risks even more for coastal communities hard hit by Sandy and place additional sand, restoring some beach projects back to heights and widths that many residents may not remember having seen since as far back as the 1970s.This was the case for Rockaway Beach in Queens in New York City.

The Corps, in partnership with New York City and the state of New York, first engineered and built the current iteration of Rockaway Beach in the 1970s. While sand has been placed over the years through large-scale renourishments as well as beneficial reuse of sand from navigational dredging in nearby East Rockaway Inlet, the last large-scale renourishment was in 2004.

When Sandy struck in October 2012, it took an estimated 1.5 million cubic yards of sand from the beach. Through authorities granted to the Corps through PL 84-99 and PL 113-2, the Corps is in the process of placing roughly 3.5 million cubic yards of sand along Rockaway Beach from Beach 19th to Beach 149th to help restore the beach so it can continue to act as a buffer between the densely populated community and the sea.

The sand placement is being done through two contracts, including one for the placement of nearly 600,000 cubic yards of sand and a larger second one for the placement of nearly 3 million cubic yards of sand. The first contract was completed earlier this year and has rebuilt a risk reduction beach in parts of the Rockaways that experienced the worst erosion during Sandy and were left the most vulnerable. The second, larger contract is slated to begin this winter and will include sand placement throughout the entire Rockaways project area, including additional sand in areas covered by the first contract. The Corps is also in the process of a Reformulation Study to look at long-term ways to improve risk reduction for the Rockaways community while also addressing erosion issues along the beach.

CONEY ISLAND

Coney Island was engineered and built in the 1990s and has reduced coastal risks to the communities of Coney Island and Brighton Beach in the years since. In early October, the Corps completed the placement of roughly 600,000 cubic yards of sand to restore the project back to its original design profile. Sand was beneficially reused from nearby Rockaway Inlet, improving navigation in conjunction with the beach restoration work.

LONG ISLAND BEACHES

In Long Island, the Corps engineered and built three risk-reduction beaches, including one at Gilgo Beach, immediately west of Shinnecock Inlet and at Westhampton.

The Gilgo Beach project is a standing authority to beneficially reuse sand dredged from Fire Island Inlet to maintain safe navigation when dredging is funded. The storm not only worsened navigation in the inlet by causing shoaling, but stole roughly 1.2 million cubic yards of sand from the Gilgo Beach project, which reduces risk to the Ocean Parkway, a critical piece of infrastructure. The Corps is in the process of dredging Fire Island Inlet and placing more than 1.2 million cubic yards of sand along Gilgo Beach, including additional sand being placed nearby in partnership with the state of New York to reduce risks even more.

The West of Shinnecock Inlet Project is designed to reduce coastal storm risks on the barrier island, reducing potential risks to the integrity of the inlet and the navigational structures associated with it while also mitigating erosion west of the inlet.

The Corps actually placed roughly 173,000 cubic yards at the project site to replace sand lost during Sandy in conjunction with previously scheduled work in the months immediately after the storm. That work repaired the project to its pre-storm conditions, and the Corps is now going to place roughly 450,000 cubic yards of sand there to restore the project to its original design.

The Corps constructed the Westhampton Dune Project in Westhampton in the 1990s and while the project greatly reduced Sandy's impacts to the community there, the project itself lost a great deal of its sand. The Corps will be awarding a contract this fall for the placement of roughly 1 million cubic yards of sand.

While all of this work is going on, the Corps is moving toward constructing new risk-reduction projects for coastal communities throughout New York. These projects seawalls, elevating and floodproofing structures, groins and of course, beach and dune construction.

NEW JERSEY BEACHES

The coastal restoration work in New Jersey from Sea Bright to Manasquan is part of a larger U.S. Army Corps of Engineers effort throughout the northeastern United States to place more than 26 million cubic yards of sand to restore beach-erosion control and coastal storm risk-reduction projects damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The Sea Bright to Manasquan Project was the world's largest sand placement project by volume when it was initially constructed from 1994 to 2001. It involved placing roughly 20 million cubic yards of sand along roughly 18 miles of New Jersey beaches, reducing risks for multiple communities.

Approximately 8 million cubic yards will be placed from Sea Bright to Manasquan, N.J., and about 875,000 cubic yards in Keansburg and East Keansburg, N.J. The repair and restoration to the Sea Bright to Manasquan Beach Erosion Control Project was broken into four contracts:

-- The $25.6 million contract Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach, which was completed in late September, involved placing 2.5 million cubic yards of sand along 4.8 miles of coastline.

-- In Long Branch, the US Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $40 million contract to place 3.3 million cubic yards of sand from Seven Presidents Park to just north of Lake Takanassee. Dredging is expected to begin in early November 2013.

-- The third contract, a $25.3 million contract will involve placing 1.5 million cubic yards of sand from Belmar to Manasquan and will begin at the end of October.

-- The fourth and final contract awarded in September 2013 was an $18.3 million to place 1.2 million cubic yards of sand on beaches from Asbury Park to Avon-by-the-Sea. Work is scheduled to being in December 2013.

"With this fourth contract awarded for emergency beach replenishment to restore the beaches from Asbury Park to Avon-by-the-Sea, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is hopeful that in addition to providing beach erosion control, that this construction will also assist the region heal, by restoring an important and central element to the coastal communities," said Col. Paul E. Owen, the Army Corps' New York District commander.

Along the shore of the Raritan Bay, the Corps awarded two separate contracts to repair and restore the Keansburg, East Keansburg, and Laurence Harbor Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction project that were built by the Corps in the 1960s. The two contracts, totaling more than $40 million, were awarded this past summer. Work is currently underway to repair the damaged levees and beach restoration work is scheduled to begin this winter.

For each project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with its non-federal sponsor, the State of New Jersey, works closely with the local municipalities to explain the type of work, the potential impacts and ensure that projects are carried out in the safest way possible. All environmental coordination, permitting and monitoring has been and continues to be done in cooperation with partners that include the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"Looking forward, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to aid the state of New Jersey in recovering from Hurricane Sandy as it completes repair and restoration contracts," said Jenifer Thalhauser, regional project manager for the Corps' New York District. "While these contracts are underway, the Corps continues to study and design new projects that will reduce the risk to these communities ... from future coastal storm damages."