Contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pump more than one million tons of sand onto the beaches of West Hampton Dunes this fall, the latest step in the long-term effort to bolster beaches there.
The project, which calls for 900,000 cubic yards of sand to be pumped from the ocean bottom a mile offshore and onto the village’s 2 miles of oceanfront, is on track to get under way in November and will take approximately two months to complete. The Southampton Town Trustees approved permits allowing for the work on Monday.
The work will overlap with a similar but larger-scale project to the east, along 6 miles of ocean beach mostly in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack, which is now on track to begin in early October.
The Bridgehampton and Sagaponack project is being paid for almost entirely by oceanfront homeowners, through $25 million in bonds to be paid off over 10 years. In contrast, the West Hampton Dunes work, the estimated cost of which is not determined yet, will be paid for entirely by the federal government from the $900 million dedicated to rebuilding beaches on eastern Long Island and bolstering waterfront communities from storm surge in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Like the Bridgehampton-Sagaponack project, the West Hampton Dunes work was scheduled to be conducted before Hurricane Sandy battered the region’s beaches, though the scope of work will now be expanded slightly to make up for the damage caused by last fall’s storm.
Beaches on the East End have made a remarkable recovery from the decimation caused by last year’s hurricane and the series of strong winter storms that followed. According to Westhampton Beach coastal geologist Aram Terchunian, who is the local consultant on both rebuilding projects, beaches in much of the town have recovered nearly to the width they were prior to Sandy. However, most have not regained the height they had before the storms, a more important factor in terms of future protection.
“It was a very delayed recovery … not until mid-July, but now we have a very good width, the height isn’t bad, about 7 or 8 feet, which isn’t terrible,” Mr. Terchunian said of the beaches in the eastern portion of the town, which would typically be about 9 feet above sea level. “The reason it was delayed was that Sandy’s waves were so big, they moved the sand farther offshore than the winter storms normally would, so it took longer to get back, but it came back.”
The West Hampton Dunes nourishment project will be the sixth time the Army Corps has led a sand-pumping operation along the village’s beaches since 1995, when the barrier beach was rebuilt following its destruction in a series of nor’easters in 1993 and 1994, which destroyed more than 100 homes. The homeowners incorporated and sued Suffolk County, New York State and the Army Corps for their roles in conditions that led to the destruction of the homes and won a court order that their beaches be restored and maintained for 30 years.
Bids for the work in West Hampton Dunes are expected to be awarded in early October and the actual dredging will begin in November.
The Bridgehampton-Sagaponack project was originally targeted to have begun last week but delays in the dredging company’s work on a sand nourishment project on Coney Island has pushed back the start date. The company is expected to begin advanced mobilization later this month and the dredging equipment is tentatively expected to arrive on October 1.
That project design calls for 2.5 million cubic yards of sand—more than three million tons—to be pumped ashore, widening the dry beach by some 60 feet and reshaping the subsurface shoreline to dampen the erosion effects of waves from future storms. The benefits of the work are forecast to last about 10 years.