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Sep 10, 2019 3:41 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Army Corps Wants Deeper, Wider Channel For Montauk Inlet

More than 300,000 tons of sand dredged from the inlet would be pumped onto the shoreline west of the harbor when the inlet is dredged.
Sep 10, 2019 4:18 PM

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a new dredging program for the inlet to Montauk Harbor that would cut a deeper and wider navigation channel, and pump hundreds of thousands of tons of sand onto the shoreline west of the inlet, where erosion has battered waterfront properties for years.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc told Town Board members on Tuesday that he thinks the latest proposal will be more appealing to the town than previous proposals by the Army Corps that included either the construction of groins along the shoreline or tens of millions of dollars in costs to the town.

“I think we have finally arrived at a preferred plan that both the Army Corps and the town will find acceptable,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said during a discussion at the Town Board’s work session in Montauk on Tuesday. “This would accomplish two goals. The sand would be placed on the west side, re-nourishing the area and bringing some relief to those areas that have experienced erosion over the years.”

The new plan would dredge the inlet channel to a target depth of 17 feet, 5 feet deeper than is currently prescribed, and 50 to 100 feet wider than in the past. But the plan also would double the length of time between scheduled maintenance dredging efforts, from every four years to every eight.

The inlet, which services the state’s largest seafood port, has been plagued by shoaling that regularly creates shallow spots in the channel that large commercial fishing boats cannot navigate over at times of low tide.

Fishermen have said that the prescribed 12-foot depth and 150-foot width is not enough to accommodate the shoaling that happens inside the inlet during some storms and to still allow commercial boats to navigate the inlet safely. Some of the larger commercial vessels that use Montauk Harbor draw as much as 15 feet when returning to port with full fish holds.

The new dredging plan would target a 17-foot depth, but the initial dredging would actually cut a channel 19 feet deep and up to 250 feet wide. The channel is currently maintained at 150 feet wide.

The federal agency would plan to return every eight years to re-cut the channel to the prescribed depth and width, and pump the sand onto the shoreline. The Army Corps study of the inlet conditions estimates that nearly 7,000 tons of sand is deposited in the inlet each year by the natural east-to-west drift of sediments along the north-facing shoreline from Shagwong Point to Culloden Point.

The Army Corps and the town have been wrestling with drafting a new plan for the inlet management that would address both the inlet shoaling and the chronic erosion of the beaches along the shoreline to the west, which is caused by the inlet jetties.

In 2016, the Army Corps said it would fund a major beach nourishment project that would restore a 50-foot-wide beach along the entire shoreline between the inlet and Culloden Point — but proposed to construct three shore-perpendicular jetties, or groins, out of sandbags to hold the pumped-in sand in place. The town balked at this plan, because the use of groins would violate waterfront development codes. Homeowners also were not expected to allow access easements between properties at regular intervals, as the Army Corps conditions would demand.

An alternative proposed by the Army Corps called for millions of tons of sand to be pumped ashore, with no groins to slow erosion, but the Army Corps said it would fund only about half of the more than $20 million costs of the work, leaving the town to pick up the rest.

Waterfront homeowners from the neighborhoods to the west of the inlet sued the town in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, claiming the town was responsible for the cost of repairs to their properties and for restoring the historical beaches, because the jetties are owned by the municipality. After a court ruling that the town was, indeed, responsible for the costs of addressing the erosion, an appeals court said the town should not be on the hook for the millions of dollars it would cost to restore the beach.

The town would be required to cover only about 10 percent of the costs of the recently proposed project: about $380,000 for the initial work, and an equal amount over the ensuing years.

“I’m much more comfortable with this iteration,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said on Tuesday. “It’s a navigation-only project with the addition of adding some sand to the shoreline west of the inlet.”

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First VanScoyoc gets the appeals court to overturn the decision against the Town from the lawsuit filed against a previous town administration and now he gets the Army Corps to do the right thing for the boaters and fisherman and the homeowners west of the jetty. I guess a reasonable and mature approach to government has its benefits and ultimately produces positive results.
By fusioncontusion (13), East Hampton on Sep 11, 19 11:01 PM
Every eight tears won't do it...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Sep 13, 19 3:37 PM