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Rockaways score sand to strengthen beaches

Waves roll onto the shore in Rockaway Beach near Beach 116th Street Sunday afternoon at about 5 p.m., two hours after the evacuation order for the area had been lifted for Tropical Storm Irene. Photo by Christina Santucci
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Steve Mosco

Summer beachgoers in Rockaway will soak in the sun next year with more of one crucial element: sand.

Battered by erosion and last year’s Hurricane Irene, Rockaway Beach is likely to get a sand replenishment later this year, according to the city Parks Department. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration allocated $3 million to the agency’s budget to pay for the project.

According to Parks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will dredge 100,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of sand from the East Rockaway inlet and place it from Beach 85th to Beach 105th streets. If there is additional sand, it will be used to fill beaches in the area of Beach 20th and Beach 30th streets.

Parks officials said there is no set time frame for the project, but the sand could start hitting the beach as early as this fall.

A group of community advocates, Friends of Rockaway Beach, embarked on a campaign dubbed “Demand the Sand” earlier this year to raise awareness of Rockaway’s diminishing shoreline. The group also said it hopes this project is only the first step in an extended plan to protect the shoreline.

“Friends of Rockaway Beach is excited about the news,” the group said in a statement. “We are aware this is a temporary fix to our erosion issues and look forward to the conclusion of the 2004 Rockaway Reformulation Study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find a permanent solution to the dangers of erosion.”

Parks said federal funds are needed to conclude the Reformulation Study, which would help determine which structures — such as jetties — are needed to put a stop to Rockaway’s ever-present erosion problem.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) credited Friends of Rockaway Beach for raising awareness and bringing a measure of national attention to the peninsula. He also said filling the beaches with sand is not just for sunbathers to relax and enjoy some time in the sun — it is also a major safety issue since the sand acts as a barrier between residents and the dangerous surf during high-powered storms.

“The beaches were in desperate need of replenishment,” Ulrich said. “People and property were left at risk and I commend Friends of Rockaway Beach for their efforts in pushing for this project.”

Rockaway sustained much damage as a result of last year’s Hurricane Irene. The Rockaway Beach boardwalk was repaired earlier this year after the storm ripped it to pieces in some places and a 100-year-old wall separating a nude beach from rest of the population was torn down by the high winds and rough surf.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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