Pictured Above: A dredge contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked on the West of Shinnecock Inlet project in late February to shore up a breach there, part of the long awaited Fire Island to Montauk Point project that has already been put into practice. There was an uproar in late February as other dredges working on Army Corps projects just to the west on Fire Island were diverted to a project near President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club in Florida.
Sixty years and many named and unnamed storms after it was first authorized, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft of its final general reevaluation report on its Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation (FIMP) Study on Feb. 18, which contains recommendations for $1.7 billion worth of work to manage tidal flooding, waves and erosion from coastal storms along 83 miles of the South Shore of Long Island.
These documents “are currently under review by the heads of federal agencies and the governor of the State of New York. Upon receipt of their comments, the Report of the Chief of Engineers will be finalized and submitted to the Secretary of the Army for transmittal to Congress,” according to the Army Corps, which released a copy of the draft on its website in mid-February.
On the East End, the plan calls for shoring up beaches and dunes in downtown Montauk, along the barrier island between Shinnecock Bay and the Atlantic Ocean at Tiana Beach and just west of Shinnecock Inlet, where the Army Corps is currently doing an emergency breach repair dredging project, while farther west, particularly in low-lying areas like Mastic, the plan calls for raising more than 4,000 houses out of the floodplain.
The study has been revised significantly since it was initiated in response to major storms, including a substantial set of changes after 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, which were the subject of the last FIMP public comment period in 2016.
The latest draft calls for placing 400,000 to 450,000 cubic yards of sand along 6,000 linear feet of a feeder beach just east of downtown Montauk, to be replenished with 400,000 cubic yards of sand every four years, a victory for the East End, where attendees at the 2016 public hearings were unhappy with the Army Corps’ initial plan to replenish the area with just 120,000 cubic yards of sand along 3,300 linear feet of beach.
The feeder beach is designed to work in conjunction with the existing geotextile bag structure constructed by the Army Corps in the winter of 2016 as part of its Downtown Montauk Stabilization Project.
The Army Corps has removed a proposal to shorten several of its groins — erosion control structures similar to jetties perpendicular to beaches — in Westhampton Beach, in response to several objections raised by the public at the 2016 hearings.
The Army Corps built 15 groins about 1,250 feet apart along the Westhampton Beach shoreline between 1965 and 1970, which had contributed to two breaches to the west (Pikes Inlet and Little Pikes Inlet) during a 1992 nor’easter. The Army Corps had initially planned to remove between 70 and 100 feet of stone from the seaward end of 13 of those groins, at a cost of $5 million, but nixed the plan “based upon an updated cost analysis that indicated the benefits of groin modification did not outweigh the costs,” according to the report.
FIMP also includes response plans for potential breaches of the barrier island between Shinnecock Bay and the Atlantic Ocean just west of the Shinnecock Inlet, at Tiana Beach and at Sedge Island, and for placing sediment from 2-year maintenance dredging of Shinnecock Inlet on these beaches.
The plan also calls for placing 564,000 cubic yards of sand on East End beaches at Cupsogue, Pikes and Westhampton beaches in the Westhampton area, to be replenished with 1.16 million cubic yards of sand every four years for the next 30 years.
Overall, the Army Corps says the latest changes reflect that “road raising features along the mainland have been eliminated and replaced with nonstructural measures for structures within the 10 percent floodplain; in several mainland locations, acquisition of structures and reestablishment of floodplain function is recommended instead of building retrofits; the Potato Road sediment management feature in the Village of Sagaponack has been removed from the plan; the Downtown Montauk sediment management feature has been refined to increase the volume for initial construction and renourishment, and to incorporate the existing geotextile-reinforced dune as part of the project and the plans for further modification of the Westhampton Groins have been removed.”
The Army Corps says the total initial project cost is expected $1.7 billion, including inflation, and seven cycles of renourishment over 30 years will cost an additional $1.4 billion.
The full report is available online here.
— Beth Young