The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New York District Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point (FIMP) Project Delivery Team (PDT) has received the Army Corps’ National Outstanding Planning Achievement Team Award (Enterprise) for fiscal year 2020 ─ recognizing exceptional team efforts on specifically-authorized feasibility studies and executing the Army Corps’ civil works mission. The team was one of only two recognized throughout the U.S.
The team’s innovative approaches to water-resource planning and inter-agency collaboration resulted in the completion of a nearly four-decade planning effort and approval of a Chief of Engineer’s Report in July 2020 for the FIMP Coastal Storm Risk Management Reformulation Study - an updated version that captures current science and engineering.
Team members are now completing pre-construction engineering and design (PED) to support construction expected to begin this fall. The $1.5 billion project is designed to reduce flood risk from severe storms and tidal surges along 83 miles of coastline (barrier beaches and low-lying mainland communities) on the south shore of New York’s Long Island east of New York City. This area has experienced repeated erosion from severe storms, the most serious in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy eroded nearly 40 percent of beach sediment in some areas.
New York District Commander Col. Matthew Luzzatto commented: “The team exhibited great tenacity, sensitivity and respect through its collaboration with the Department of the Interior and other state and federal agencies to achieve agreement on a very complex study. It turned what could have been a constraint into an opportunity to build trust and improve the project.”
Clifford Jones, Chief, Planning Div. | Catherine Alcoba | Steven Brown | Frank Buonaiouto | Suzana Rice | Anthony Ciorra | Stephen Couch | Jeffrey Cusano
Elisheva Greenblatt | Jenine Gallo | Mukesh Kumar | Janeen Minguillo | Brendan Newell | Christina Rasmussen | Carissa Scarpa | Ellen Simon | Robert Smith
Arianna Stimpfl | Danielle Tommaso | Frank Verga | Peter Weppler |Cynthia Zhang
The goal of the study was to identify an economically viable and environmentally acceptable plan that addressed costal storm risk management needs in the project area and was acceptable to key federal, state and local stakeholders. To that end, the team collaborated with professionals from six agencies: a) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; b) National Park Service; c) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; d) Department of the Interior; e) New York State Department of State; and f) the U.S. Geological Survey. (Over the years, many other Army Corps personnel contributed to the study.)
The study was ultimately completed with funds from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (PL 113-2), federal legislation providing resources to repair areas of the coastline damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The recommended plan is a model for 21st century coastal management addressing the area as a comprehensive coastal system balancing the needs for coastal storm risk management and natural resources.
Several agencies of the U.S. Department of the Interior ─ a federal agency protecting and providing scientific information about natural resources ─ had raised concerns about the project. To that end, New York led a collaborative effort with state and federal agencies updating the Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan (a plan addressing areas of uncertainty, guiding project implementation, and ensuring project benefits are realized.)
This adaptive management was a unique undertaking in that most plans only address ecosystem restoration (renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats in the environment); this plan considers both performance of coastal storm risk management features (sand replenishment, dunes, berms and groins/jetties) and their ecological function (how they impact people/communities and the environment.)
Breach Response Plan
The award also recognized innovative approaches. One of them is a Breach Response Plan to respond to breaches created by severe storms. Barrier islands in the project area are highly vulnerable to the effects of severe storms ─ a breach created by Sandy in 2012 still remains today. The PDT used field and modeling data related to physical shoreline elements such as a) beach and dune heights/widths); b) land use (wilderness area, managed parkland and residential); and c) breach characteristics to develop four distinct plans tailored to different areas of the project.
In fact, the Breach Response Plans may provide a blueprint for supporting natural coastal processes ─ waves, tides, erosion and currents ─ while increasing resilience of communities.