With the breach at Cupsogue Beach County Park now closed, the giant dredging vessel Illinois being employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has now moved east to Shinnecock Inlet and begun dredging sand from the inlet and rebuilding severely eroded beaches in the area.
The three-week project, as initially designed by the Army Corps and funded by the federal and state governments, will dredge some 250,000 tons of sand from the inlet channel and pump it onto the beaches immediately to the west of the inlet’s western jetty, and stretching some 1,000 yards west toward Ponquogue Beach.
As planned, the sand would restore the beaches to the approximate width and height they were prior to Hurricane Irene in 2011. The beaches were severely eroded during Irene, but dune systems largely held up to the storm’s waves. But Hurricane Sandy’s higher storm surge and stronger winds quickly erased the depleted beaches and washed through the dunes, flattening their sand into a 6-foot deep blanket of sand across Dune Road and the parking lots of businesses and commercial fishing docks on the bay shoreline.
U.S. Representative Tim Bishop’s office announced this week that it was also negotiating with the Army Corps to expand the scope of the project, placing an additional estimated 115,000 tons of sand onto the shoreline in the area of Tiana Beach, which was over-washed by storm-driven waves during Hurricane Sandy.
“Sandy made a bad situation … even worse, and I have requested that the Army Corps seek an expansion of the existing contract with the dredging company to deliver more sand while the dredge is operating in the area,” Mr. Bishop said in a prepared statement on Friday, as the work at the inlet got under way. “This vital work will protect the nearly 500 jobs that are supported by the small business and marine infrastructure [on Dune Road].”
The dredge is owned and operated by the Illinois-based contractor Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, under contract with and supervised by the Army Corps.
The Army Corps budgeted some $5.1 million for the work at Shinnecock Inlet, though the dredging company bid the cost of the work at only $3.9 million. The funding for the work is being split between the Army Corps and New York State.
The Illinois is what is known as a cutter-head dredge, which scours sand from the bottom of the sea floor and pumps it, in a slurry of sand and water, to a mobile dispersing outlet on the shoreline.
The dredging work from the original project design is expected to take about three weeks to complete. If the Army Corps agrees to expand the work, it could add three to five days to the length of the project.
The dredge has spent the last two weeks working to fill the breach in the barrier island at Cupsogue Beach during Hurricane Sandy. The breach, essentially a new inlet between Moriches Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, reached as much as 1,500 feet wide and 10 feet in depth in the weeks following the storm. Closing it and restoring the original width of the barrier island required more than 200,000 tons of sand, which was dredged from the channel of nearby Moriches Inlet, and pumped from the Illinois onto the shore. The project cost some $6 million, according to estimates by the Army Corps.