By NICK DIVITO
BROOKLYN (CN) - Efforts to shore up Fire Island and prevent more damage in the wake of Hurricane Sandy threaten the "survival and recovery" of the threatened Atlantic Coast piping plover, the National Audubon Society claims in Federal Court.
The Army Corps of Engineers plans to preserve the coast by building a series of sand dunes and berms along 19 miles of the Fire Island shoreline in Long Island.
The Audubon Society claims that the project "will result in immediate and long-term significant adverse impacts on piping plover habitat."
Audubon claims the federal government failed to "properly consider" the "cumulative impacts on piping plovers," nor did it objectively study all alternatives.
The group has "long advocated" for the piping plover's protection on Long island and Fire Island.
The group identified the area as an "Important Bird Area" in 1998, and reaffirmed that designation in 2005.
It hired a full-time biologist in 2009 to "help steward piping plovers on Long Island by installing predator enclosures and string fencing around piping plover nests, and advising beachgoers and managers on how to avoid negative impact to plovers," according to the lawsuit.
The group submitted its objections to the government's plan to install the berms on Fire Island in April, and asked for alternative measures to protect the birds.
It says that 1,615 of its members formally submitted comments to the Corps of Engineers critiquing the project, and that it met with Wendi Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife northeast region director, to "discuss concerns about the impacts" of the project.