Montauk Lighthouse Protection Project Get Underway

Large boulders - some as large as 15 tons - are moved by a large claw-tipped excavator after being transported from a quarry in upstate New York as part of the Army Corps of Engineers' Montauk Point Revetment Project on Monday. MICHAEL HELLER

The two-year shoring up of the rock bluff footing that protects the Montauk Lighthouse began this week as a Gremlin-green crane began swinging multi-ton boulders off the existing seawall.

The project will reconstruct the 1,300-foot revetment and will add hundreds of tons of new boulders — some weighing as much as 15 tons each — to the seawall that protects the 225-year-old lighthouse.

The new revetment will be arranged in a new configuration designed to provide better stability. The vegetated cliff wall between the rocks and the lighthouse foundation will also be terraced and bolstered with better containment materials.

The work will mean that Turtle Cove and the shoreline around the foot of the lighthouse will likely be closed to surfers, fishermen and sightseers through the next two summers.

The project is costing more than $30 million, primarily funded by the federal Army Corps of Engineers and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The boulders being used were carved from an upstate quarry and transported to Long Island via barge then are being trucked into Montauk.

The Lighthouse, built in 1796 and commissioned by President George Washington is a national landmark. When it was built, a large bluff called Turtle Hill, for its humped appearance, sat between the lighthouse and the sea more than 300 feet away. But erosion has almost entirely washed away Turtle Hill, leaving the lighthouse less than 100 feet.

The lighthouse is now owned by the Montauk Historical Society, which paid to construct the original revetment in 1991.