Who’s going to pay to raise Dune Road?

Dune Road, Hampton Bays
Dune Road, Hampton Bays

The low-lying five-mile stretch of Dune Road from the Quogue Village line to the Shinnecock Inlet has long been plagued by tidal flooding during storms, which causes the waters of Shinnecock Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to encroach on this narrow stretch of barrier beach, and that’s only gotten worse since Superstorm Sandy.

In late October, Congressman Tim Bishop held a press conference at Oaklands Restaurant, near the Shinnecock Inlet, to announce that he and Senator Charles Schumer are looking for federal funding for a project that would raise the road between 16 and 20 inches, at a cost of $7 to $8 million.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was granted $700 million by Congress to use toward shoring up Long Island’s coastline against storms earlier this fall, including a potential project that would protect downtown Montauk from the ocean.

Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who is leaving public office at the end of this month, has been pushing for Dune Road to be raised for nearly a decade. At a work session to adopt the town’s 2014 budget on Nov. 20, he pushed the town board to include $2 million more in bonded financing than the $975,000 in funding already allocated in the town’s capital budget for the project.

While all of his fellow board members pledged that the project was important and would be completed, none joined Mr. Nuzzi in voting for the increased funding.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said she believes the town is “on the cusp of finding out whether it will be a federally funded project.”

“It doesn’t preclude us from doing it down the road should we be denied funding,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anybody on this board that isn’t committed to seeing that project through.”

Ms. Throne-Holst added that, if the town agrees to fund the project before receiving federal funding, the amount they’ve already allocated wouldn’t be put toward the local match for federal grant funding.

Mr. Nuzzi said the project has already received DEC permits, and is only waiting for the money.

“There are highly valued homes, acres and acres of town and county parkland, the second largest commercial fishing port in the state and restaurants” that rely on Dune Road for access, he said, adding that 25 percent of the assessed value of property in town  — a whopping $3 billion — is on Dune Road.

“We need to let everyone know how serious we are,” he said. “This is a project of greater regional significance to our economy.”

Councilman Jim Malone abstained from the vote, while the three remaining board members voted against it.

“This project will get done whether through capital funding this year or through the state and federal government,” said Mr. Malone. “Thank you very much for very near a decade of tireless focus getting this done.”

Councilwomen Christine Scalera and Bridget Fleming said they were concerned that the town not stress its capital borrowing any further, in order to protect the town’s bond rating.

Ms. Throne-Holst said she had already committed to bond rating agencies that the town would not borrow more than $3 million per year for all capital projects.

“You have my commitment, within six months of now, if there’s no commitment [from the federal government], we will bring it forward again,” she said.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, 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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