Pictured Above: The 480-foot Great Lakes suction hopper dredge Ellis Island is expected to be moved to Montauk in the upcoming weeks. |. Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc. photo

As the East End deals with round after round of coastal storms this January, crews are beginning to stage equipment for a long-awaited Army Corps of Engineers dredging project to pump 450,000 cubic yards of sand onto Montauk’s downtown beaches.

The $11.25 million project, paid for by the state and federal government, is being completed as part of the Army Corps’ Fire Island to Montauk Point Project, which has been studying the best way to protect the 83-mile South Shore and South Fork coastline since 1960, and received $1.7 billion in federal funding in 2021.

East Hampton Town had been working with the Army Corps to advocate to have the Montauk project added on to the Fire Island to Moriches Inlet (FIMI) section of the project underway now on Fire Island, because both sections involve the same kind of work — sand replenishment along oceanfront beaches, said East Hampton Councilman David Lys at the Town Board’s Jan. 9 work session.

The town announced in late September of 2023 that the project was authorized to begin a year early after the bid for the work in Montauk was awarded to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, which is now finishing work on Fire Island.

Beginning on Thursday, Jan. 11, Mr. Lys said Great Lakes was beginning to move its land-based equipment from Fire Island to Montauk, with temporary road closures expected on Elder, Eton and Emerson streets as the company brings in land-based equipment, including bulldozers and an unusual, crab-like surveying vehicle, to work on the beach.

The land-based equipment will be followed by the 480-foot hopper dredge Ellis Island, which will be suctioning sand from the ocean bottom about 3/4 miles offshore and pumping it onto the beach to shore up an existing 6,000-foot-long berm from the Benson Reservation to just east of Surfside Place.

Mr. Lys said he doesn’t want residents to be alarmed to see a nearly 500-foot-long vessel just off the coast of downtown Montauk, and said the ship may go around Montauk Point and into Fort Pond Bay to seek lee during storms.

“It would be the largest ship in Fort Pond Bay since the Navy was here,” he said. “If you see it on the bay side, don’t be alarmed.

The dredge is expected to work from the east to the west, with a 1,000-foot-long beach closure in the area where it is working, said Mr. Lys, adding that the entire Kirk Park Beach parking area will be used by the dredging company, and there will be no pedestrian access from east or west or the dune overpass on private properties to the work zone, which will be surrounded by a safety fence.

Mr. Lys said the work will continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the month of February, with work lighting facing the ocean at night. The work is expected to take six to eight weeks, weather dependent, with the dredge demobilized in March and April, after which beach grass and fencing will be put in place to shore up the dune. The contract completion date is expected to be May 21, but the equipment needs to be off the beach by May 1 to accommodate nesting shorebirds.

Mr. Lys urged the public to sign up for the town’s Alert Me Now emergency alert program, and to stay tuned to the town’s Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as its website, for updates on the project. He added that the town is working with the Montauk Chamber of Commerce and Friends of Erin to ease the disturbance to the business community, but cautioned that some parking areas often used by paradegoers at the Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be closed due to the construction.

“This is a temporary solution to sea level rise,” said Mr. Lys. “It’s not a magic wand, but it is a layer we have to address now. We’re working toward long-term sea level resiliency.”

An overview of the project is on East Hampton Town’s website.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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