The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to embark on its latest beach nourishment project in West Hampton Dunes later this month.
The federal agency has already set up equipment for the beach widening near Lashley Beach in Westhampton Beach and Pikes Beach in West Hampton Dunes, including the installation of pumps, pipes and temporary office space.
Covered under the blanket of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, the $14.2 million project will restore the estimated four-mile stretch of beach between Lashley Beach and Cupsogue Beach County Park, located on the western boundary of West Hampton Dunes Village, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Chris Gardner said. The plan is to restore the entire stretch so the beach is at least 90 feet wide and 9 feet above sea level—its estimated condition from the 1990s.
During the project, which could begin as early as next week, between 905,000 and 1.5 million cubic yards of sand will be dredged up from the ocean floor and pumped along the beach between Lashley and Cupsogue beaches.
The Corps nourishes the same stretch of beach every few years per an agreement reached with West Hampton Dunes in the early 1990s. In 1993, the newly incorporated village sued the federal government, claiming that jetties built in Westhampton Beach by the Corps prevented the natural east-west flow of sand from reaching West Hampton Dunes, thus making the community more susceptible to storm damage.
Mr. Gardner said the Corps services all its projects that are damaged by storms, restoring them to pre-storm conditions. However, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act permits the agency to go a step further by restoring the coastline to its original state.
“That gives us the legal authority to restore projects all the way back to their original design templates,” he said. “It’ll be back to new, essentially.”
Aram Terchunian, a West Hampton Dunes consultant and founder and CEO of Westhampton Beach-based environmental consulting firm First Coastal, said the nourishment project is similar to the one that started in Sagaponack Village and Bridgehampton last October and finished up early this year. In fact, Illinois-based Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, the same company that handled the nourishment project out east, was given the contract for West Hampton Dunes.
The only difference between the two projects is the type of dredge being used to collect sand, Mr. Terchunian said. “From the shore you won’t be able to tell the difference between the two projects,” he said.
The project is scheduled to move from east to west, starting near the Lashley Beach Pavilion, moving along the Westhampton portion of the barrier island and, ultimately, passing Pikes Beach and finishing up near Cupsogue Beach. The natural flow of the current will move the sand westward.
The project is scheduled to take 55 pumping days, but how long the work actually takes will vary depending on ocean conditions—if waves swell to more than 6 feet, dredging must be stopped for the day, Mr. Terchunian said. A completion date has not been set, but Mr. Gardner said the project will be done before the end of winter.
West Hampton Dunes Village Mayor Gary Vegliante said regular beach nourishment is what has protected the homes in his village from damage during hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
“It’s always important, especially when we go into the winter storm season,” he said. “We’ve come to know that the winter storms, the ones that are in succession one after another, is where all the damage is done.”
Mr. Vegliante went on to encourage all other communities along Dune Road to nourish their beaches as well.
“My firm belief is that the barrier island is absolutely the first line of defense for protecting the mainland—you need to get it built up and maintained,” he said. “We maintain our bridges, we’ve gotta maintain our beaches.”