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Home Relocations Make Way For Coastal Restoration Project, Dunes

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
Published May 21, 2019
Updated: May 21, 2019

Shewen Bian, right, discusses an item with the contractor prior to moving a 100-ton house on Fire Island, a barrier island off the south shore of New York's Long Island.


A home on Fire Island, a barrier island off Long Island's south shore in New York, being prepared for moving. The project is moving three homes outside the design template to make way for a line of dunes that will reduce flood risk to people, property and infrastructure behind them.


Thinking about physically relocating a home often conjures up images of a huge structure on a flatbed truck with a police escort and the words “Wide-Load” emblazoned on the back. This spring, the New York District is relocating several homes a much shorter distance (20-40 feet), but it’s a no less complicated task.

Coastal Storm Project  

The Fire Island Inlet to Moriches Inlet (FIMI) Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project is executing the relocation of three private residences to make way for a line of protective dunes expected to be constructed this summer. The work is taking place in Davis Park, a small community on New York’s Fire Island  ̶  a barrier island just off Long Island’s south shore in Suffolk County that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Engineering Perspective

Army Corps personnel regularly monitor activities at the site, reviewing contractors’ work executing a complex engineering task.

“This operation is quite delicate,” commented Ryan Ferguson, an engineer assigned to the project, adding, “A series of operations must be carried out with great care and precision or the structure could be damaged.”

“Moving these structures is a necessity for this project,” points out Robert Vohden, project manager, adding, “The homes have to be moved outside the design template to build dunes in a straight line, otherwise they can’t function as designed  ̶  absorbing wave energy from tidal surges and reducing flood risk to people, property and infrastructure behind them.”

Preparation Critical

Most of the work takes place before the actual move itself with the entire operation taking 6-8 weeks to complete. The following procedures must be completed systematically, in order:

a) Disconnecting utilities/structures (staircase, chimney) and building a temporary foundation adjacent to the property

b) Severing the home from the original foundation and moving it to the temporary foundation

c) Constructing the new foundation at the desired location;

d) Detaching the home from the temporary foundation, moving it to the new location, securing it to the foundation, and reconnecting utilities and structures in place prior to the move.

Precision Move

During a site visit, Shewen Bian, another Army Corps engineer on the project, was present as the contractor’s work crew were making last-minute adjustments to ensure the 100-ton home was ready to be moved. The home was then pushed slowly, assisted by a hydraulic pump, along several steel beams supported by a foundation of cribbing (wooden structures designed to relocate heavy objects.) The movement is so slow that it’s nearly impossible to see in real time; in order to gauge the movement, you usually need to wait a period of 15-20 minutes and then compare how far it has progressed along the steel beams since you last saw it.

Rare Occurrence

Physically moving structures is a relatively rare event with Army Corps’ projects; it’s only done when essential to the construction and function of a particular initiative. In fact, this is the first work of this kind executed by the District in recent memory. Most homes within the design template were previously bought out and demolished.