Federal Beach Nourishment Work Pushed Back To 2023

The federal Army Corps of Engineers told local officials this week that the South Fork has been bumped down the priority list for beach nourishment and will not see significant beach nourishment until 2023.

The federal Army Corps of Engineers told local officials this week that the South Fork will not see significant beach nourishment work as part of the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation project, or FIMP, until at least 2023 after the region was bumped down the project priority list in favor of the dredging of Fire Island Inlet.

The $1.5 billion FIMP project is scheduled to officially mobilize this fall — more than 50 years after it was conceived and nearly a decade since it was funded with federal Superstorm Sandy aid — and the reconstruction of the beaches in the Hampton Bays-East Quogue area and in Montauk had originally been the first in line to get underway late this year or early in 2022.

But in a meeting with local officials on Monday, the Army Corps informed the local municipalities that the two local projects, which the Army Corps counts as a single project because they will use the same equipment, have been leapfrogged by the dredging of Fire Island Inlet and the nourishing of the beaches at Jones Beach, Gilgo Beach and Robert Moses State Park.

“Tiana and Montauk were supposed to be number one and now are number three because the state prioritized dredging Fire Island Inlet,” said Aram Terchunian, a consultant who has worked with both Southampton Town and East Hampton Town on the design of the two projects.

The FIMP plan calls for restoration of more than 1,600 linear feet of beach in western Hampton Bays and East Quogue, and about 6,000 linear feet of the beach in Montauk.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc was incensed at word that the full beach reconstruction will be bumped at least one additional winter season and possibly two or three, because of the costs being incurred by the town to restore Montauk’s downtown beach each spring.

“This is extremely disappointing given the fact that we agreed to an emergency stabilization project many years ago now with the promise that FIMP would be close on its heels,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said on Tuesday during the Town Board work session, referring to the 3,000-foot sand bag revetment that the Army Corps installed. “It hasn’t been close on the heels. The cost estimates have grossly exceeded those presented when we agreed to the emergency stabilization project. The town and county share is averaging over $1 million per year. To push this off three more seasons is unconscionable.”

In 2014, the Army Corps proposed the 13,000-sand-bag, $9 million revetment as an “interim” protection for the hotels along Montauk’s waterfront until a larger beach reconstruction could be mobilized. But the agreement required the town and county to maintain the artificial “dune” of sand covering the sandbags, which has been repeatedly exposed by winter storms requiring tens of thousands of tons of sand to be trucked in most years.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said he plans to plead with federal officials, including senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, to pressure the Army Corps to adjust their schedule.

Mr. Terchunian said that the Army Corps had indicated that it was New York State that had pushed for the Fire Island Inlet dredging and the bolstering of the beaches to its west to be moved to the front of the project line.

The Army Corps has also introduced some other practical difficulties for the Tiana portion of the project: informing Southampton Town officials that they will need to get signed easement agreements from the owners of all 492 properties between Moriches Inlet and Shinnecock Inlet. Mr. Terchunian said that because of past nourishments projects, all the properties in West Hampton Dunes already have the necessary easements and the town and county properties will be easy to get. Nonetheless, he said, there will probably be hiccups along the way from some homeowners who may be skeptical about signing. But he said he is confident the agreements will be in place quickly.

“So, we’ve got a whole bunch of easements to go get — and we’ll go get them and we’ll be ready early and we’ll be ready and see if we can’t get them to work sooner,” he said.