With the massive beach rebuilding project in eastern Southampton Town finally completed, the dredging barge Illinois will now shift its efforts to the area west of the Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays, and start pumping sand ashore later this week.
But another beach nourishment project on tap for the Village of West Hampton Dunes, originally scheduled to get under way this month, is now expected to be put off until next fall because of logistical delays.
The Illinois finished its chores off Sagaponack Village at about 2 a.m. on Friday, February 21, nearly two months later than originally anticipated due to delays caused by bad weather, and has returned to the Shinnecock Inlet where it will immediately begin preparing for the Hampton Bays project.
The Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, which owns the Illinois, was awarded the job by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this winter, thanks largely to cost savings because the dredge and other necessary equipment and staff were already in the area. Crews have been setting up equipment on the beaches west of the inlet in preparation for the arrival of the dredge over the last several weeks.
The Hampton Bays work is expected to take approximately three to four weeks and could be completed by the end of March, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. More than 500 tons of sand will be pumped onto a 1,000-foot-long stretch of beach extending west from the inlet jetties. The sand will be excavated from the navigation channel through the sandbar stretching across the mouth of Shinnecock Inlet. The sand, mixed with seawater, will be pumped through a series of steel pipes and onto landing areas just above the surf line and then bulldozed back toward the sea to create a gradual slope.
The project specifications call for the creation of a 90-foot-wide beach, backed by a 15-foot-high dune. The work will restore the beach to the profile created in the 2005 effort, which the Army Corps credited, in light of the extensive damage seen there during Hurricane Sandy, with saving the businesses along Dune Road.
“The West of Shinnecock Inlet Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project is designed to reduce coastal storm risks on the barrier island, reducing potential risks to the integrity of the inlet and the navigational structures associated with it while also mitigating erosion west of the inlet,” a statement on the project by the Army Corps reads.
The West Of Shinnecock Inlet, or WOSI, project is expected to cost about $7 million and will be paid for with state and federal funding from the $60 billion Hurricane Sandy federal aid package, $700 million of which was directed specifically to bolstering the coastline of Long Island. In all, the Army Corps plans to pump some 35 million tons of sand onto beaches across the Northeast, including along the Jersey Shore, the Rockaways and Fire Island, to mend the damage wreaked by Sandy.
The beach rebuilding project in eastern Southampton Town, which cost some $26 million, was paid for primarily by private homeowners. The project started in early October and was hampered by a stormy late fall and winter, which kept the Illinois inside Shinnecock Bay for 41 days and delayed the completion date by more than two weeks.
Delays have also pushed the timing of the work slated for West Hampton Dunes up against environmental conservation deadlines and might force the Army Corps and Great Lakes to put off the project until September.
“The original dredge scheduled for the West Hampton Dunes project had a serious mechanical breakdown, so Great Lakes is working on an alternate schedule,” Westhampton Beach-based coastal engineering consultant Aram Terchunian said. “It was supposed to get started this week, actually. But it’s going to be weeks now, at least.”
Army Corps spokesman Chris Gardner said engineers are still looking at the schedule, but some think it will be impossible to get the West Hampton Dunes work finished by their April 1 deadline. After that date, the state Department of Environmental Conservation prohibits any beach work because of the potential presence of piping plovers, a federally protected shore bird.
The West Hampton Dunes project calls for approximately 700,000 cubic yards, or about 1 million tons worth of sand to be pumped ashore between the westernmost jetty and Moriches Inlet. It will be the sixth such project since the barrier island was rebuilt following a breach that destroyed more than 100 homes and spurred the incorporation of the beachfront village in the early 1990s.