Southampton Town has been awarded a $1 million state grant to fund the construction of a sand berm to protect a stretch of Dune Road in East Quogue from overwash by the Atlantic Ocean and the threat of a breach of the barrier island.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation agreed last week to reimburse the town for the costs of constructing the artificial dune, which would act as a levee, holding back waves from washing across Dune Road in a severe storm. Coastal experts have warned that the conditions in a several hundred-foot stretch east of Tiana Beach, where storm-driven waves have washed across the barrier island three times in the last year, are ripe for a breach in the event of an extended severe winter storm or hurricane.
The town must now reach an agreement with a dredging company to pump the more than 100,000 tons of sand that will be needed to construct the berm.
Last week, the town officially rejected the bids for the delivery of the sand received from two dredging companies currently working in the area. The lowest bid for the work was $1.8 million, submitted by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., the company currently conducting a massive beach nourishment project in the Westhampton area.
Town officials said they are hopeful that with the state grant now in place, a second round of bids for the work will come in at a level that is affordable for the town.
“We’ll go to them and tell them what we can afford,” Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said.
“They’re here already and they want the work,” Councilman Brad Bender added, confident the bids would come in at a level that would allow the project to get done soon.
Utilizing dredging equipment already in the area is a critical component to keeping the project costs low enough to be feasible, since mobilizing major dredging vehicles can cost more than the actual dredging work for such a relatively small project.
For the project in Westhampton, Great Lakes crews are pumping more than one million tons of sand ashore along a two-mile stretch of beach, part of a 30-year court-ordered effort to stabilize the beach in the Village of West Hampton Dunes.
Experts have said that a similar beach nourishment project is the only long-term solution to the threat of a breach in the Tiana area as well. But in the absence of such a multimillion-dollar effort, the construction of the sand berm in the overwash area is seen as the most effective solution.
The total cost of constructing the berm is being estimated at about $1.4 million. Suffolk County, which owns the land where the overwashes have occurred in recent months, will contribute the remainder of the costs in the form of labor and equipment to construct the actual berm once the sand has been pumped ashore by the dredging company.
The Town Board last week authorized using $1 million from its own savings to pay for the dredging work, to be reimbursed by the state when the project is completed.