Pictured Above: The area west of Shinnecock Inlet is due for more beach sand replenishment this winter.

Contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are embarking this winter on the second phase of the long-awaited Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) project, dredging more than 320,000 cubic yards of sand from Shinnecock and Moriches inlets, while Southampton Town gets to work on asking homeowners farther west from Shinnecock Inlet for easements for the next phase of the work.

The area west of Shinnecock Inlet (the Army Corps calls this area WOSI) has been a difficult spot for many years. The ocean most recently breached the barrier island into Shinnecock Bay there after four major storms in the fall of 2019. 

In the winter of 2020, on an emergency basis, Army Corps contractors dredged and placed more than 600,000 cubic yards of sand on the oceanfront beach west of Shinnecock Inlet. Prior to that, the Army Corps had put about 610,000 cubic yards of sand on that beach in 2005, and another 301,000 cubic yards of sand after 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.

The Fire Island to Montauk Point project, expected to protect an 83-mile-long stretch of the South Shore of Long Island, has been in the works for decades. It finally received full authorization in 2020. On the East End, this project primarily involves dredging of sand from inlets and placing it on vulnerable nearby beaches at Shinnecock and Moriches inlets, as well as in downtown Montauk. It also calls for raising more than 4,000 homes out of the floodplain, mostly further west in the area of Mastic Beach, though about 10 percent of those homes are in Southampton Town. 

The Army Corps estimates the initial cost of the project to be about $1.7 billion, with another $1.4 billion for seven cycles of beach sand replenishment over the next 30 years.

The first contract, to dredge Fire Island Inlet in the winter of 2021, cost $47.5 million. The Shinnecock and Moriches inlet dredging projects, expected to begin in December of 2022, are slated to cost nearly $24.5 million.

The Army Corps’ proposed project areas for FIMP work

The third contract for the project is expected to be more complex than the first two. It involves offshore dredging and placement of sand along the Dune Road oceanfront farther west of Shinnecock Inlet, near Tiana Beach and the village of Quogue. 

Southampton Town has been tasked with working with owners of 100 properties along Dune Road on easements allowing the Army Corps to place sand on beaches on their property.

This process requires the town to hire surveyors and appraisers, get title company certifications, and prepare easement language to present to the 100 homeowners, Southampton Assistant Town Attorney Kelly Ann Doyle told the Southampton Town Board at its Oct. 20 work session. 

If homeowners don’t respond to the requests for easements, the town will then have to pursue condemnation of the portion of the properties needed for the Army Corps project.

Ms. Doyle said the town, the Army Corps and the State Department of Environmental Conservation are planning to hold a public information session to explain the process later this winter, at a date that has not yet been set. 

The Army Corps plans to have a contractor in place to do the work on the third contract on the by the fall of 2023, with construction expected to begin in January of 2024 and take about three months.

“It’s going to be a serious challenge to meet the deadline,” the town’s coastal advisor, Aram Terchunian, told the board at the work session. “Everything we do has to be approved by the state and the Army Corps.”

The town’s financial advisor, former Comptroller Len Marchese, added that the cost of the surveys, appraisals and title work could cost the as much as $20,000 to $25,000 per parcel — a total cost of $2.5 million to $3 million, which would ultimately, but not immediately, be reimbursed by the federal government. The Army Corps would pay for the cost of the actual easement.

“You’re going to need a short-term financing mechanism and to provide some local funding, and the federal government won’t pay interest on bonds,” said Mr. Marchese. “There will always be outliers saying ‘no, I can get more money for this property,’ but I’m hoping we can acquire the easements while the additional funds are being argued in court without having to go to condemnation.”

“I would imagine homeowners would be excited and want it,” said Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni.

“They want a body that they can ask questions to, and answers that are simple and straightforward,” said Mr. Terchunian. “It’s that type of engagement that is absolutely necessary, but difficult to have on a face-to-face basis. It’s a challenge, but I think we can do it.” —BHY

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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