Ready or not the Army Corps project will be moving to Long Beach on April 1st. While this may be a surprise to residents, this news seems to have also been a surprise to the City Manager and the City Council, despite the fact the contract they signed dictated work can occur on any beach in the project zone during any season. Well, that‘s not 100 percent accurate…the City did specify that the beaches between Long Beach Road and Magnolia were off limits between Memorial Day and Labor Day to maximize the profits from the “tourist” beaches. As a result, my community of Point Lookout along with the other partners involved in the project are unsure why there is so much indecision and obstruction coming out of City Hall. The City has objected to multiple construction plans, including ones they themselves earlier submitted, holding fast to their position that the only solution acceptable to the city is to not allow work on its beaches during the summer months. Their effort to delay the project may result in significant potential damages owed to the contractor in the millions of dollars that the City will be responsible for. More importantly, this obstruction leaves our ocean side barrier island coastline vulnerable for significantly longer than necessary, potentially setting the project back months. This will leave not only Long Beach and the barrier island residents vulnerable to storms, but also the waterfront communities of Freeport, Oceanside and areas of the five towns as they were all impacted by ocean side storm surge during Sandy in addition to localized bay flooding.
As the president of the Point Lookout Civic Association, I have had the privilege of collaborating with the Army Corps and the contractor since the outset of work in the Point Lookout area this past summer. The contractor worked with us to have our beaches open on weekends and cleaned the entire beach for the Labor Day Weekend. The Army Corps has made every effort to work with the City to finalize a plan. And despite what has been conveyed to the press, the reason the project is moving to Long Beach is not because it is ahead of schedule as the City contends, but the terms of the construction permit issued clearly stipulated that work could not occur from April 1 through September 1 within the designated Piping Plover nesting area, which is essentially the entire Point Lookout area beach. The work will resume in the fall of 2017 in Point Lookout to finalize projects that the contractor could not complete prior to April 1.
So why does the City want its residents to remain vulnerable? You will need to ask them. The only reason I have heard was that this work would “cripple the local economy.” This is a fallacy not based on any quantifiable measures. The City of Long Beach had enough foresight when the contract was written that work could not occur on their tourist beaches yet somehow following the City’s request is still going to cripple the City? Additionally, the contractor will only engage in work on two groins at a time and only on weekdays. I cannot imagine that residents or tourists will not simply walk an extra block along the boardwalk to an unaffected beach, instead of refusing to purchase seasonal and daily passes as the City may fear. I can assure you, when Civic Beach in Point Lookout was 70% closed during weekdays in August, residents didn’t stay home, they simply walked a little further to beaches not impacted by the construction.
I urge all residents to ask the City why a plan has not yet been finalized with the Army Corps to allow for an orderly transition from Reach 1 (Point Lookout Area) to Reach 2 of the project (the Long Beach area). This project is imperative to the resiliency of the barrier island. Any further delay by the City may have dramatic implications and force residents of the barrier island to wait even longer for the protection we all know we so desperately need.
Thank you for taking the time to read.
Point Lookout Civic Association