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Funding issues hampering Plumb Beach restoration project

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The Army Corps of Engineers is torpedoing a crucial Plumb Beach rehab project needed to keep the Belt Parkway from falling into the Rockaway Inlet, outraged community leaders claimed when they blasted the federal agency’s decision to dump tons of sand onto the eroded beach before building the jetties that would prevent the new shoreline from being swept out to sea.

The Army Corps of Engineers will begin replenishing Plumb Beach’s eroded coastline this fall, but admitted that the stone jetties that will keep the sand in place, also known as groins, won’t be constructed until 2013 — which some residents see as a boneheaded move.

“When they start building the jetties, half of the sand will be back in the bay,” Community Board 15 Chairwoman Theresa Scavo said. “What’s going to stop the sand from going back into the water if the groins aren’t built yet?”

Anthony Ciorra, the Army Corps’s Plumb Beach project manager, said his agency hasn’t received the funding to build the groins, and Plumb Beach can’t wait another year.

“We’re going to need around $2 million to build the groins,” Ciorra said. “But we’re confident we will get that funding.”

The Corps promised to spend $5 million on the project, but have only secured $3 million in federal funding to start the first phase of the rehab, which consists of dredging the Rockaway Inlet and dumping the sand they collect onto Plumb Beach’s alarmingly eroded shore front.

That work is expected to begin this summer, after the horseshoe crab mating season on the beach is over.

Ciorra said that installing the jetties and a third stone wall to stave off future erosion won’t start until the feds agree to pay for the rest of the work.

But Ciorra believes the bulked-up beach should survive — and, more importantly, keep what’s left of Plumb Beach intact — until the jetties are put in place.

“There is infrastructure that’s at risk here,” Ciorra said. “But once the sand is in place there will be protection.”

The Corps agreed to bolster Plumb Beach in February, after the city promised to chip in an additional $2 million to help save the beach.

Elected officials hailed the decision, but some residents said it should have included extra funding to dredge Sheepshead Bay, where sandbars strand boats at low tide.

The Corps restored Plumb Beach in 1992 after a storm swept most of the coastline away, but over the years the sand shifted into the marshes inside Gateway National Recreation Area. Another massive storm in 2009 whittled the beach down even further, prompting the Corps to place sand bags along the shoreline.

But Plumb Beach doesn’t have the Corps full attention: on April 16, Gov. Cuomo announced that the state will partner with the feds and the city to restore a section of Sea Gate’s shoreline that’s taken a beating in recent years.

Officials said the work is part of a 50-year restoration project in Coney Island that began in 1994 when the Corps extended the W. 37th Street jetty to protect the eroding coastline.

“Our beaches needs to be preserved,” said Councilman Dominic Recchia (D–Coney Island). “The whole peninsula will be in much better shape.”

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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