Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation introduced by two East End lawmakers to protect national historic landmarks from shore erosion, enabling the state Department of Environmental Conservation to enter into financial agreements with the federal government to protect privately owned landmarks along the coastline.
The bill, introduced by State Senator Kenneth LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, is designed to protect landmarks such as the Montauk Lighthouse, which needs extensive work to shore up the bluff surrounding the iconic light.
The lighthouse, commissioned by George Washington in 1796, was was 300 feet from the bluff when it was first built, but the bluff has eroded over the past two centuries to the point where the lighthouse is now just 50 feet from the bluff. It has been owned by the Montauk Historical Society since 1996.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed placing 15-ton armor stone on top of the existing, collapsing revetment, which would be topped by a stone splash apron of 1 to 2-ton boulders, underlain by a geotextile fabric, bringing the total height to 25 feet. The revetment would have plantings above the splash apron to stabilize the slope.
If the project goes forward, the federal government would pay 65 percent of the $18.2 million cost of construction, and a local sponsor, in this case the DEC, would provide 35 percent of the funding, either paying for their portion up front or “having construction cost initially funded under the Sandy program appropriations, with non-Federal sponsor pay back of their share of 35 percent of the project cost over 30 years with interest,” according to the Army Corps’ draft Hurricane Sandy Limited Reevaluation Report for the project.
“It’s essential that we provide the Department of Environmental Conservation with the necessary tools to save our pristine shorelines and our historic places, like the Montauk Lighthouse,” said Mr. LaValle in announcing the governor had signed the bill. “Currently, the DEC cannot enter into financially obligated agreements with non-profit organizations like the Montauk Historical Society, to halt erosion. Since the Montauk Lighthouse is managed by the Historical Society, the legislation would provide a solution to the issue.”
“The Montauk Point Lighthouse has been part of Long Island’s land and seascape for more than 200 years,” said Mr. Thiele. “This new legislation, combined with the national landmark status, will ensure that the Montauk Historical Society can continue their great work in protecting this Lighthouse and ensure its existence for future generations.”