ECO Currents

Opinion: Feds Need to Help Long Island Protect Maritime Infrastructure

In a district nearly completely surrounded by water, we have a unique responsibility to safeguard our local waterways, from improving our area’s water quality to bolstering our local maritime infrastructure.

Since coming to Congress, I’ve worked with commander of the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Thomas Asbery and his incredible team to secure desperately needed victories, whether it’s moving the Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) plan closer to implementation or securing emergency East End projects.

In 2018, a series of unprecedented storms pummeled area waterways and significantly worsened navigation conditions, leaving Moriches Inlet effectively impassable. I went out to the inlet to see these dangerous conditions firsthand, and was joined by fishermen, business owners and other stakeholders in calling for an emergency dredge. Working with the Army Corps of Engineers and others at every level of government, I secured the approval and $12 million in federal funding needed to undertake this emergency dredge. Equally as important, the dredged sand was placed at Smith Point County Park where it was used to widen the beach, strengthen the dunes and defend the beach against future storms.

Already this year, multiple storms have caused severe damage to the dunes along the ocean side all along our shores and, most significantly, led to severe flooding and a near breach of the barrier island just west of Shinnecock Inlet where many small businesses and jobs are located, including the second largest commercial dock in New York State.

In addition to calling on the Army Corps to utilize any emergency authority available to assist, my team and I have been in frequent contact with the Army Corps regarding any and all possibilities to strengthen the dunes as soon as possible.

Of course, we can’t jump from emergency to emergency acting only when we have no other choice, which, in addition to focusing on strengthening jetties and enacting other permanent fixes, is why I’ve prioritized maintenance dredging and projects that bolster our dunes and berms and prevent damage.

Our area waterways are vital arteries for our vibrant coastal economy of marinas, restaurants, recreational boaters, commercial fishermen, and all the small businesses that support these industries. The hundreds of miles of coastline that comprise our shores have been forever ingrained in the culture and livelihoods of Long Islanders, and continuing to safeguard and invest in our maritime infrastructure will preserve our way of life for generations to come.

By Lee Zeldin

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