Federal contractors could potentially begin pumping millions of tons of sand onto South Fork beaches by year’s end, or early 2022, after funding for the long-awaited Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformultation Study, known for decades as FIMP, was approved by Congress and President Donald Trump as part of the appropriations bill that also secured $900 billion in additional pandemic relief aid.
Two South Fork projects, in the Tiana region of Hampton Bays and in Montauk, are expected to be seen as priority projects and likely among the first to be mobilized, local officials said this week.
The FIMP work plan has been presented to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which will coordinate with Suffolk County and the local towns where work will be done to secure the necessary easements along the stretches of shorefront where new sand will be pumped into the beachhead from offshore stockpiles.
The state and towns, and any private land owners whose property fronts proposed work areas, must sign off on the work by the end of May with an October mobilization date, according to consultant Aram Terchunian, who has represented both town in the planning of the FIMP projects.
A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers on December 23 said that the official forecast for the commencing of construction is 2022.
The Hampton Bays-East Quogue nourishment and the rebuilding of the beaches off downtown Montauk are considered one project in the FIMP plan, and will be mobilized concurrently and conducted by the same dredging crews, Mr. Terchunian said last week after the project was officially given the financial green light. Where precisely the dredging will start first —Montauk or Hampton Bays — will be up to the construction company that wins the bids for the work.
Montauk is due to have about 600,000 cubic yards of sand — about 750,000 tons worth, or 75,000 dumptruck loads — pumped onto its beaches to restore the natural profile of the beach and reduce erosion during major storms, Mr. Terchunian said.
The initial project, which is likely to cost in the range of $15 million, will be paid for entirely by the federal government. But once the beach has been rebuilt, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to return as often as every four years to add sand, which would have to be paid for in part by the local municipalities, namely New York State and East Hampton Town.
The town has formed a committee of public and private interests that are drafting plans for an “erosion control district” that would levy taxes on some Montauk properties to pay for the long term maintenance of the beach once it has been rebuilt. The committee has also considered raising funds to pay for the pumping of additional sand as part of the initial work, to make the beach even wider.
“We’ve had a number of meetings, and we did a survey of beach users and everyone likes the idea and would be willing to pay to ensure the beach is there and wide,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said. “But the question still is how do we break down the distribution of costs.”
The Tiana area of East Quogue and Hampton Bays, where chronic erosion has threatened public beaches and Dune Road itself for years, is slated to get approximately 1.5 million tons of sand.
Residents of East Quogue who live along the project area have already created an erosion control district to pay for their share of the future maintenance costs, along with the town and Suffolk County, which own the bulk of the shoreline landward of the beach in the Tiana area.
Each of the two projects could take three to four months to complete, Mr. Terchunian said.
The FIMP plan also includes major bolstering of beaches near Shinnecock Inlet, in West Hampton Dunes and on Fire Island, as well as in the Water Mill-Bridgehampton area, though those areas are likely seen as lower priority because they have seen major nourishment work in recent years.
The beaches between Shinnecock Inlet and Ponquogue were rebuilt with some 750,000 tons of sand last winter through an emergency appropriation. The FIMP plan calls for a 30-year maintenance of the beach profile there. West Hampton Dunes has been regularly nourished as part of the legally mandated maintenance of the beach there and is a lower priority.
The work is to be funded entirely by the federal government from the $1.7 billion allocated to the FIMP work plan as part of the Superstorm Sandy recovery aid allocated by Congress in 2012.
The FIMP project, which was begun as a sweeping assessment study of coastal dynamics in the 1960s, was infamous for decades for being stuck in governmental limbo, hamstrung by its scope and inconsistent funding. But following Superstorm Sandy’s impacts, the study’s focus finally received the funds needed to turn measured needs into shovel-ready projects.