Contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New York State will dredge about 300,000 tons of sand from Shinnecock Inlet beginning next month and pump it onto beaches west of the inlet that were severely eroded during the passing of Hurricane Irene last year.
The project officially has a dual purpose: bolstering the beaches decimated by Irene’s waves and clearing the navigation channel leading from the Atlantic Ocean into Shinnecock Bay, home to the state’s second-largest commercial fishing port.
The project will be funded jointly by the Army Corps and the state and conducted by a private contractor hired by the Army Corps, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.
U.S. Representative Tim Bishop announced this week that the project bids for the federal portions had come in well under budget. The dredging is officially slated to begin on or about November 1 and will be completed by mid-January 2013, according to Mr. Bishop’s office.
In June, the Army Corps appropriated some $5.1 million for the project, but the accepted bid for the work by Great Lakes was just under $3.9 million. The additional money will be held in reserve in case of any unexpected contingencies and would then be reassigned to other Army Corps emergency projects. Mr. Bishop said he will push for the money to be redirected to other Long Island projects.
“I fought for a strong federal response to mitigating the damage from Tropical Storm Irene, and this vital project will protect the more than 500 jobs that rely on the small businesses and marine infrastructure located west of Shinnecock Inlet and will also ensure continued safe access to New York’s second-busiest fishing port,” the congressman said this week. “We should all applaud the fact that the bid for the project was lower than expected and that taxpayers can expect extra bang for their buck with the federal-state partnership on this work.”
The federal portion of the project will dredge 128,000 cubic yards of sand—13,000 dump truck loads—from the main fairway of the inlet that will be pumped onto the quarter-mile stretch of badly eroded beach and dunes immediately to the west of the inlet.
The state portion of the project will fund the removal of another 115,000 cubic yards of sand from the navigation channel leading to and from the inlet. That sand will also be deposited along the beach near the inlet.
In late 2009 and early 2010, the Army Corps dredged more than 500,000 tons of sand out of the inlet and channel and pumped it onto beaches in western Hampton Bays and East Quogue. That project was funded with money from the federal stimulus package known as the American Recovery and Investment Act.
The beaches west of the inlet have suffered from chronic erosion for decades, the ill effects of the stone jetties that were used to stabilize the inlet in the 1950s. The jetties interrupt the sand that flows naturally from east to west along the shoreline, redirecting it offshore—also forming a long offshore sandbar that creates recurring hazardous navigation problems for boats entering and leaving the inlet.
The dunes that protect the commercial fishing port and cluster of restaurants and businesses adjacent to the inlet have been bolstered with trucked-in sand nearly every year, but would likely provide little protection from the pounding of waves in a major hurricane or a prolonged nor’easter.