The Town of Smithtown is hoping to mitigate flooding, amid rising sea levels, on a road that stretches out into Long Island’s waters to reach the Long Beach peninsula.
Long Beach Road is subject to flooding more than 36 times each year, according to town officials. The proposed project would reduce the rate of flooding to one or two incidents per year. It is expected to cost up to $854,000 for less than a third of a mile of Long Beach Road.
The project would raise 1,500 feet of Long Beach Road by an average of 1.7 feet, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency grant documents. The work done would stabilize the slope on the seaward side of the road, using a combination of rock, vegetation, erosion control mats and other natural stabilization methods. Stormwater improvements would be incorporated into the project design as well.
The town would receive up $717,375 in FEMA funds that would be distributed by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
“Long Beach Road is a place that has historically flooded,” Nicole Garguilo, town spokeswoman said.
Carol and Drew Wendelken live out on the Long Beach peninsula and own a restaurant in Wading River. Getting to and from work is sometimes problematic.
“We have lost our brakes driving through the flooding,” she said. “But we’ve learned how to deal with it.”
This past Saturday, she said, they had to wait for more than an hour for the tide to recede. But they are used to timing it.
“It’s always a case of high tide, a full moon and a storm system,” Wendelken said. “Those three ingredients create the flooding. The winds, too, impact it. There are times when you cannot get out at all.”
Town officials say higher sea levels and worsening weather over the years have shown the need for such a project as constant flooding could strand residents and vehicles who are on the peninsula.
Since 1900, New York has experienced at least a foot of sea level rise, mostly due to expansion of warming ocean water, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC projects sea levels will rise an additional 2 to 10 inches in the 2020s.
The Long Beach Road accesses the Long Beach Town Park, the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club and Otto Schubert Beach. The peninsula is also home to scores of residential properties that have been adversely impacted by the flooding.
In September, the Suffolk County Legislature approved a measure requiring the county’s Department of Public Works to take rises in sea level into consideration when planning major roadwork in an effort to curb flooding and potential future damage.
FEMA does not establish completion frames for its subgrants, but the performance period ends on Nov. 14, 2020.
Photo from Carol Wendelken