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Oct 20, 2008 12:13 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Dredging project will bolster Smith Point, Cupsogue beaches

Oct 20, 2008 12:13 PM

A project to bolster the shoreline damaged in last year’s nor’easter by dredging sand from the Moriches Inlet and depositing it on local beaches has nearly doubled in size and scope, federal and county officials announced this week, noting that the project will be initiated a year sooner than originally planned.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the New York State Emergency Management Office granted a total of $11.1 million in funding to Suffolk County to repair erosion to Smith Point and Cupsogue beaches.

Formerly a $6.4 million initiative, the project grew in size as it became clear that more was needed in order to rebuild the public beaches and protect the mainland from storm surges, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said.

In total, the project will dredge 460,000 cubic yards of sand from Moriches Inlet. About 310,000 cubic yards will be placed at Smith Point and another 150,000 cubic yards will replenish Cupsogue Beach in Westhampton. The project originally called for the dredging of 240,000 cubic yards of sand.

The Moriches Inlet, a notoriously dangerous area for boaters because of shallow waters, will be made easier to navigate by the dredging project, Mr. Bishop said. Work is scheduled to begin in early November.

“This will allow for a very thorough dredging of the inlet and for getting sand on both the Cupsogue and Smith Point parks,” said Mr. Bishop, who has spearheaded the replenishment project. “It benefits everyone. It benefits beachgoers, it benefits the Flight 800 Memorial, it benefits those who use the Moriches Inlet … they will have a safer and more navigable waterway at their disposal.”

The project is necessary because both public beaches, while being major tourist destinations, also help protect mainland areas from storm surge.

Dan Aug, a spokesman for Mr. Levy, said the county executive and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer helped expedite the beach replenishment project. In a statement, Mr. Schumer called the project a “triple-win for Suffolk County” because it accomplishes three goals simultaneously.

“The county executive is hopeful that this will bolster our beaches at Smith Point and Cupsogue and ensure their use for patrons for a long time to come,” Mr. Aug said. “A significant benefit will be restoration of the Moriches Inlet with the expectation that it will be navigable again.”

The Moriches Inlet was last dredged in February 2004. In that project, about 250,250 cubic yards of material was removed from the channel and deposited along portions of Fire Island National Seashore (FINS).

There are no immediate plans to dredge the Shinnecock Inlet, a project that is expected to tentatively cost upward of $10 million to complete. The sandbar outside that inlet was dredged in 1990, 1992 and again in 1998. It was most recently dredged in 2004 when an estimated 300,000 cubic yards of sand and silt were removed. Local fishermen have been saying for months that it needs to be dredged again.

While this year’s project was being vetted by federal and county officials in April, FINS officials voiced concerns about the sand quality at the inlet and its compatibility with sand along the national park. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also raised concerns about the protection of endangered species, such as piping plover, that nest on the beach.

It was announced this week that both agencies signed off on the project. In total, the project required permits from eight federal and state agencies. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company LLC will complete the dredging project.

FINS Acting Superintendent Sean McGuinness said this week that he still has concerns about the sand quality. But he said that concern was outweighed by the need to replenish the beachfront, which is badly eroded in areas.

“The quality of the sand is just something that we’ll have to live with,” Mr. McGuinness said. “This is not a big enough issue to hold it up.

“The scope of the project is within reasonableness,” Mr. McGuinness continued, noting that as recently as this week high tides eroded sections of the beach and made driving on the beach in the Davis Park area difficult.

The sand for the replenishment project at Smith Point is being dropped at two locations. One site is about a half-mile west of the Moriches Inlet and the second location is two miles west of the inlet, in front of the TWA Flight 800 Memorial and the Smith Point Beach pavilion. Through the natural littoral drift, the sand will eventually make its way westward along the barrier island.

“The beach should be in good shape after this renourishment project,” Mr. McGuinness said.

Mr. Bishop said the sand being placed at Smith Point is within acceptable quality standards. “FINS would not have signed off on this project if they were concerned about the quality of the sand,” Mr. Bishop said. “They have signed off on it.”

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They should dredge Shinnecock Inlet while they're at it.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Southampton on Oct 22, 08 4:08 PM
They should dredge both inlets as well as the intercoastal waterway that connects them. Plenty of clean ocean water coming in every high tide - flushing out the stale bay water that is becoming more of a problem due to development and pool and lawn chemicals. Also, fish and wildlife, including shellfish, would flourish in the cleaner water. The layer of mud that is hardening on the bay bottom would be removed and sand would take it's place. This layer prevents vegetation as well as shellfish from ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Oct 24, 08 9:19 AM
Very true.Their was an awesome set of necks on the south side of Moriches Bay off Westhampton Dunes not long after Pike's Inlet broke through in 1991.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Southampton on Oct 25, 08 1:41 PM
Very interesting, Mr. Rodney, but I'm not sure that's accurate science.

Some years back I attended a hearing on this matter, and recall one of the Southampton Town Trustees making a very strong statement about the damage such an incursion of Ocean water with its heavier saline content, would cause acquatic plant and animal life in the bays.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 2, 08 8:41 AM
I don't buy into the trustee's saying that in increase in the salinity harms the bay. Clean ocean water flushes it out. Moriches Bay flourished after Pike's Inlet broke through.Ocean water is much more nourishing than the pollutants that flow into the bay from the "mainland". I'll go one step further - I believe the bay is too shallow and, therefore, the sun in summer raises water temperature too much and vegetation on the bay bottom ceases to grow, thus diminishing habitat for shell and fin fish. ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Nov 2, 08 8:41 PM