Bellone Announces Suffolk County Seeking to be as a Party to the Case in Opposition to the Audubon Lawsuit – Announces NYS Comptroller Approval of Contracts to Begin Surveying of Fire Island Properties
(Long Island, NY) Today, County Executive Steve Bellone was joined by Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, town and village officials and community supporters to announce that the County has filed with the US District Court to seek the Federal Court’s permission to become a party to the case in opposition to the Audubon lawsuit. The Audubon lawsuit sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to protect the Piping Plover habitat. The temporary restraining order prohibits the commencement of dune rebuilding and replenishment in Phase I (Smith Point) and Phase 2 (Robert Moses) of the Fire Island Inlet to Moriches Inlet (FIMI) project.
“The FIMI Stabilization Project must be implemented in its full phase compliment in order to provide optimal coastal storm damage reduction from coastal erosion and tidal inundation,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “As County Executive, my focus is on the long-term sustainability of Suffolk County. Fire Island and the Great South Bay are directly related to the long term economic success and viability of Suffolk County. The fact is that people and property are at risk if this project does not move forward.”
Commissioner Joe Williams, Councilman John Cochrane, Jr. Assemblyman Joe Saladino, Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, County Executive Steve Bellone, Ocean Beach Mayor Jim Mallot, Dave Griese-Fire Island Lighthouse, Bob La Rosa-Fire Island Lighthouse, Vern Henrickson-Suffolk County’s Fire/Emergency Coordinator, Mario Posillico-Saltaire Village Administrator, George Hoffman-Fire Island Association, Commissioner Gilbert Anderson. Photo Credit: Suffolk County.
Because of the County and its partner’s efforts and dedication to the protection of the Piping Plover, the FIMI project has included numerous conservation measures in the project design to minimize any impact on plover habitat. The creation of almost 98 acres of new habitat serves a net gain to plover habitat compared to pre-sandy environment.
“The Fire Island National Seashore is a beautiful natural habitat and is vital in protecting Long Island’s South Shore,” stated Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci. “We need to put dunes in these crucial coastal areas, and it has to happen immediately, especially in the height of hurricane season. This is certainly not the time to delay the building up of our natural levy for the protection of the south shore of Long Island. While I recognize and appreciate the need to protect our wildlife, there is another species on Fire Island – human beings – that are also in need of protection from potentially devastating and life-threatening storms,”
“The Fire Island dunes are the only line of defense that our south shore communities have against major weather events,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. “As it stands, we remain dangerously vulnerable and the next storm or hurricane could be disastrous. Something needs to be done now, and I support any action to accelerate the long overdue replenishment of the dunes.”
“This project is vitally important not only for the residents of Fire Island but for the entire South Shore of Long Island,” said Ocean Beach Mayor Jim Mallot. “It’s just a matter of time when the next large storm arrives and it is of great concern to our residents. We need to get this project going.”
By vehicle, the only way to access Fire Island is to use Burma Rd. which begins on the western end of the Island and proceeds through parkland to the Fire Island Lighthouse. To ensure that this route is protected and available during needed operations, Phase I and Phase II of the FIMI project will prevent flooding of the route and provide for continual usage.
“If Phase I and Phase II of the FIMI project do not move forward most notably at risk is the access road (Burma Rd.) which connects the western communities to Robert Moses highway,” said Saltaire Village Administrator Mario Possillico. “This critical roadway is the only point of access for emergency services and essential services necessary to support the beach communities.”
“We lost the access we had prior to Hurricane Sandy and that access is vital to the health and safety of residents,” said Vern Henrickson, Suffolk County’s Fire/Emergency coordinator for Fire Island. “We use this road for firefighting and emergency personnel services. This could have potentially devastating impacts if this project does not move forward.”
In addition to seeking the Federal Court’s permission to become a party to the case in opposition to the Audubon lawsuit, the County has just received approval of the contract by the NYS Comptroller’s office to commence the survey work needed for Phase III of the FIMI project. Surveyors will begin accessing ocean-front parcels in order to precisely identify and map the Project’s footprint and to conduct environmental assessments.