Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is it important to remain focused on Beach Renourishment?
All communities on Fire Island must be prepared to effectively respond to beach damage from future storm activity. For example, the 08-09 beach renourishment project provided critically important protection for homes and vital infrastructure in the participating communities. Although the Island suffered varying degrees of sand loss due to post-project coastal storms, most of the project communities have been judged eligible for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the costs of replacing the lost sand.
What is a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement?
The project communities have already commenced the regulatory approval process to undertake another renourishment project to repair the damage caused from those past storms. One of the key conditions of the permit approvals for the 2008/09 beach project was that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be undertaken prior to any further beach projects. However, to avoid a repetition of cliff-hanging negotiations with various regulatory agencies when each new project is required, our goal is to establish a framework for efficient, controlled and expedited regulatory review and approval for repair projects well into the future. Therefore, in cooperation with the Fire Island National Seashore, we are planning an EIS process with a longer term focus that would cover not only the next repair project but also any projects that might be required over the next 30 years. This longer term approach is called a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS).
Why should our community join in the PEIS process?
If this PEIS is successfully implemented, it will provide a predictable framework for expedited regulatory approval from the numerous agencies that have oversight and approval authority over all shoreline management activities. This effort to mutually agree upon the parameters for such work (and document these agreements in advance) will also allow for a welcome shift away from the sometimes adversarial relationship that we have had with some of these agencies in the past.
Considering that this PEIS process will establish the basic parameters for shoreline protection for Fire Island for the next generation, it is imperative in our view that all of the communities on Fire Island participate in this effort. Not only will universal community participation produce the most cohesive study and design, it will enable all communities to take advantage of the tremendous economies of scale, cost sharing and possible federal assistance for future cooperative beach projects. On the other hand, a community that chooses not to participate in the PEIS, and then requires a future beach project, will have to bear the entire burden of an individual project-related EIS and subsequent beach project. Without the benefit of cost sharing, it would be difficult if not impossible for the taxpayers of any individual community to undertake that task alone.
What will the PEIS entail and what will it cost?
Producing a PEIS will require a more comprehensive study of coastal shoreline protection on Fire Island, which will include examining policy and land use issues as well as beach renourishment. This expanded scope, however, should only add marginally to the schedule and cost of a normal EIS which would have been required anyway for the next project. We are currently in the process of developing the scope and parameters of the PEIS, the final agreement on which will partially determine the cost of the analysis. Once the scope is finalized, we will solicit bids from consulting firms specializing in this area of work and then be able to more precisely inform each community of the cost to participate.
Although the cost of the PEIS may be a challenge both politically and financially for some communities, we are confident that when measured against the cost of having to periodically conduct an EIS prior to every future project, and against the benefits of a well-defined shoreline protection policy for the communities of Fire Island, universal participation in the PEIS will be achieved.
How and when will we learn more about the PEIS process?
You should look forward to additional communication form the FIA on this matter over the course of the upcoming months as the particulars of the EIS become more well-defined after initial public-scoping and receipt of consulting proposals. We will increase outreach efforts so that all communities are sufficiently informed about this process, which promises to be of great benefit for each individual community and for Fire Island as a whole.
Future FAQ topics will include:
• What are the specific components of a PEIS? and how much will it cost?
• What is the relationship (if any) between this PEIS process and the FIMP?
• Who will sponsor the PEIS, and what is the timeframe for approval