Feds Okay $700 Million for Beaches

Rebuilding downtown Montauk’s shorefront is targeted to take place next year
The federal government will pay to plan and design a rebuilt Montauk beach. Hampton Pix

    Planning and design for rebuilding downtown Montauk’s beaches, which were severely eroded after last fall’s Hurricane Sandy, will continue at 100-percent federal expense by the Army Corps of Engineers. In a press release on Tuesday from Representative Tim Bishop, it was announced that $700 million to rebuild Long Island’s south shore beaches from Fire Island to Montauk had been approved by the federal Office of Management and Budget. Mr. Bishop has been working with the Army Corps, he said in the release, with the target date next year for construction on the Montauk beach.
    The allocation also includes $18 million for the design and construction of an 840-foot stone revetment surrounding the Montauk Lighthouse, although the Army Corps has not released a timetable for the next phases of that project, a subject of hearings and discussion over several years.
    “I will continue to advocate in the strongest terms for a plan that will protect vulnerable beachfront properties and the beaches that make Montauk a world-class vacation destination,” he said in the release.
    “Superstorm Sandy was a once-in-a-generation storm that dealt a heavy blow to downtown Montauk and other areas along the south shore, but it has provided a unique opportunity to secure a stronger and more resilient coastline for the long term at 100-percent federal expense,” Mr. Bishop said in the release, adding that “rebuilding beaches to protect vulnerable coastal property and tourism resources devastated by Superstorm Sandy is a top priority.”
    Just how much of the $700 million approved for Long Island’s south shore will go to construction in Montauk is yet to be determined, as is the scope of other projects to be undertaken within the 83-mile shorefront in the Army Corps “Fire Island to Montauk Reformulation Study.” A draft environmental impact statement for the entire area would have to be issued before any projects get under way. 
     East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson read the press release aloud at a meeting of the town board on Tuesday. “I think this is the first time that Montauk has gotten the attention from the federal government that it deserves,” he said. “It may be a little late, but it’s progress.” Mr. Wilkinson was also quoted in the press release, as were other officials.
    “This is great news for the hamlet of Montauk and the Town of East Hampton,” the supervisor commented in the release. “The global attraction of these beaches are an economic asset to all of New York and I, the people of Montauk, and the residents of East Hampton want to personally thank Congressman Bishop for his extraordinary efforts in securing the expertise and funding to complete this renourishment.”
    While the question of funding for downtown Montauk was pending, Mr. Wilkinson had tried, unsuccessfully, to secure approval from the entire town board for any plan the Army Corps might propose there, including, potentially, the installation of rocks or hard structures. Without blanket, pre-emptive approval, he had said he feared the Army Corps might leave Montauk out of the project. A board majority, however, excluding Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, agreed that review of a beach-rebuilding plan, perhaps by an independent coastal engineer, was warranted before expressing support for an Army Corps plan. According to Mr. Bishop’s office, the Army Corps will develop its plans in conjunction with local and regional authorities.
     “Areas such as Montauk are important to our economy and our beaches are not only a tourist attraction but they provide important protective barriers to residential and commercial areas during storms,” said Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, a former East Hampton Town supervisor, in the press release. He also applauded the congressman’s efforts.
    “These projects will help protect and maintain our beaches and our economy,” said Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc in the release. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said, “Sand replenishment will help protect our shoreline and mitigate storm erosion. Tim Bishop is to be thanked for his tireless efforts on behalf of individuals and businesses that depend on a healthy and sustained coastline.”
     New York State Senator Kenneth J. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. also expressed thanks for Representative Bishop’s work in the press release, and underscored the importance to the economy of maintaining beaches.