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Smack In Middle Of Hurricane Season & Just As Dorian Skirts Coast, Nassau’s Army Corps Study To Protect Bay Communities Could Drown In Bureaucracy Unless It’s Rightfully Extended By Feds

Corps’ Has Already Invested $3 Million Schumer Fought For Studying Ways To Reduce Risk Of Surges, Flooding & Other Damage Experienced During Sandy—But On Sept 30th, The Work Will Needlessly Stop

Schumer: Feds Mustn’t Turn Blind-Eye To Nassau Just As Eye Of Any Hurricane Could Set Sights; Finish Back Bays Work  

Smack in the middle of hurricane season and while Dorian spins up the eastern coastline, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer revealed, today, that a critical U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) effort to thoroughly study Nassau’s Back Bays and protect countless LI communities from storm surges, flooding and more, could simply cease on September 30th unless the feds move to extend and fund its completion.

“All the federal work thus far on Nassau’s Back Bays would be for naught if the feds simply left the resiliency project unfinished, to collect dust on some shelf while the threat of major storms and hurricanes that might impact Long Island remains on the table,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “That’s why the feds must green-light a modest three year extension of this critical study that scrutinizes thirty miles of coast, and several communities to find ways to mitigate the threat of future storms."

Schumer said that the ongoing Back Bays study is sorely needed to prevent millions-upon-millions of dollars in future damage to the Island and that $3 million has already been rightfully and wisely spent. He said 30 miles of the Long Island coast depends on the USACE finishing this work as he made the case for the feds to green-light an appropriate three-year extension ASAP.

The Nassau Back Bays study began in the Fall of 2016 and is exhaustingly examining ways to reduce the risk of surges, flooding, coastal erosion and even wind—the exact elements of Sandy that proved so much local vulnerability. Schumer says that an extension of the study—until 2022—would cost another $6 million. Schumer explained that the swath of the Bays that includes places like Reynolds Channel, Hewlett, Middle, South Oyster and more demand and need this comprehensive planning if millions-upon-millions in future storm damage might be avoided.

“If there is one good thing to come from Sandy,” added Schumer, “it’s that we learned of our vulnerabilities, and the Back Bays are still a weak point we need to invest in if we are going to avoid jaw-dropping costs in the future, both to homeowners and local governments."

"The Nassau County Back Bays study is crucial to ensure the continued vitality and resilience of our communities," said Senator Todd Kaminsky. "I stand with Senator Schumer and my partners in government to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to continue this imperative project and bolster their investment in the vibrant villages that comprise Long Island's South Shore. After Superstorm Sandy and disaster after disaster, we simply cannot afford to do anything less."

“As we know well from past hurricanes and tropical storms, the south shore of Nassau County is in danger of being exposed to storm surge, flooding, severe winds and coastal erosion,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “I stand with Senator Schumer in urging the US Army Corps of Engineers to continue this essential study of the back bays so we can soon pinpoint what needs to be done to preserve our south shore coastal communities."

"The Army Corps of Engineers need to stay until the job is complete," said Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen. "Right now the Town of Hempstead has only half a blueprint to support the long-term resilience and sustainability of our coastal communities in the event of the next major hurricane."

“As yet another hurricane barrels toward the US, it is especially meaningful that we are joining together at all levels of government to do everything in our power to minimize damage, not only from dangerous storms but from rising sea levels,” said Town of Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito. “This funding is especially important here in Island Park, my home, that was so severely impacted in Superstorm Sandy."

“The Army Corp’s Nassau County Back Bays Study is of vital importance in the effort to protect our local infrastructure and the ecological health of our back bays,” said Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty. “This study is investigating the impacts and lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy and once complete will offer regional solutions on how best to protect our homes and beaches from more devastation. I want to thank Senator Schumer for his passion and for keeping his attention focused on this project which is so critical for our village’s continued renaissance.”

The Army Corps has also released a status report in April that detailed potential resiliency measures that included surge barriers within many communities, as well as other ideas, but this Back Bays study needs to finish if the full scope of options and their impact on the Island are to be made lucid.

Schumer reiterated that the Nassau County Back Bays—including Hewlett, Middle, Jones and South Oyster bays, as well as associated creeks and channels—are all identified as high-risk regions that needed an in-depth study that must account for past, current and future coastal storm risks. The study is examining miles of Long Island’s southern shoreline in Nassau and in parts of Queens and Suffolk County, as well, to determine the feasibility of a larger project to reduce the risk of coastal storm damage.

Historically, Nassau County’s Back Bay communities have endured flooding on numerous occasions. After Superstorm Sandy, Long Beach, Island Park, Oceanside, Baldwin, Freeport and Five Towns were extensively flooded. On the Long Beach barrier island, the ocean met the bay. According to the comprehensive U.S. Geological Survey’s Observed Storm Surge Mapper from October 29th, 2012, it is clear there was storm surge on both the oceanfront and Bayfront side of the barrier island. In addition to Superstorm Sandy, these South Shore communities experience severe flooding during regular high tides and heavy rainstorms. 

Schumer’s letter to Army Corps Lt. General Semonite, pushing to extend the Back Bays work, appears below:

Dear Lt. General Semonite:

I write to request that you immediately approve an extension for the Nassau County Back Bays Study, a critical study in the ongoing effort to protect the western back bays of Nassau County from future storm surge events.  I also ask that you approve an additional $6.1 million in funding authorized by Public Law 115-123, containing supplemental Sandy funding so that USACE is able to finish this vital study.   

Superstorm Sandy devastated many of Long Island’s coastal communities and in the wake of the storm, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) identified Nassau County’s Back Bays as a vulnerable area along the Atlantic coast in need of protection from flood risks. Extending the deadline and providing additional funding for the Nassau County Back Bay Study will allow USACE to thoroughly examine the past, present, and future threats facing the community and provide robust solutions to address future flooding threats in the Bayfront.

The western back bays of Nassau County have historically endured numerous flooding events and will benefit from this comprehensive study that will recommend various options for building future resiliency. During Superstorm Sandy, Five Towns were extensively flooded along the Bayfront area; furthermore, on the Long Beach barrier island, ocean water met the bay. Accordingly, when USACE completed a comprehensive study of vulnerable coastal populations affected by Superstorm Sandy, they identified the western Back Bay communities as one of nine vulnerable focus areas that needed to be protected from flood risks.

The ongoing Nassau County Back Bay study is in need of an extension due to the size and complexity of the study area. It is examining in detail the flooding that occurred during Superstorm Sandy and testing various solutions to determine how to reduce the risk of future flooding, erosion, storm surges, and severe winds. I was pleased to secure the funding for the study in 2015 and 2016, and I fought for more supplemental Sandy relief funding in 2018. These communities are still feeling the effects of Sandy and remain vulnerable to future severe flooding events which is why an extension must be granted and further funding secured to continue the ongoing investigation and analysis.

I am thankful for the Army Corps’ attention and commitment to providing a thorough analysis for the Nassau County Back Bays Study and again, I urge you to approve an extension of the study and provide an additional $6.1 million in funding.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.


U.S. Senator Charles Schumer