MIDLAND BEACH — A $22 million project intended to prevent flooding and brush fires in the Hurricane Sandy-damaged Midland Beach launched this week.
Elected officials joined the city's Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Design and Construction to break ground on the New Creek Bluebelt project, which will restore natural drainage areas to let them store and filter stormwater.
"It is a horrible existence, when every day of your life you have to check the weather forecast because if there's even the slightest rain, it's going to be a problem for you or your family," Borough President James Oddo said.
"This is the only relief that these folks have to look forward to."
The project will restore more than 5 acres of flood-prone wetlands in the area, build a new branch of New Creek watershed that will move stormwater from the wetlands to the main channel of New Creek, and eventually install catch basins and storm sewers under the streets, DEP officials said.
The Bluebelt, which is funded by the DEP and an $11 million federal grant secured by Sen. Charles Schumer, will help prevent the constant flooding after rainfall in Midland Beach, officials said.
Nearly 80 percent of the blocks in and around the neighborhood regularly flood because of a lack of storm sewers, which made the Sandy-caused destruction in the area worse, Schumer said.
"Staten Island's Bluebelt system is a smart, innovative way to help make communities more resilient through an environmentally beneficial approach," Schumer said at the groundbreaking Monday.
The project will restore a 4.7 acre wetland between Nugent Avenue and Freeborn Street and an additional 0.7 acre one between Freeborn Street and Olympia Boulevard, the DEP said. The city will also install culverts under Freeborn Street, Olympia and Graham boulevards that will allow the stream to pass.
Aside from the flood protection, the Bluebelt construction will also remove the reed grass at the site — which is prone to brush fires — with wetland plantings, the DEP said.
The project will build the first two of 19 Bluebelt Wetlands in the Mid-Island and is part of a larger push to expand the project across the borough. Several Bluebelt projects have completed in the South Shore of the borough and the DEP also previously announced it would restore more wetlands in New Dorp Beach.
The city expects the New Creek wetland construction to finish in 2017.