Posted on February 9, 2024
The downtown Montauk ocean beach is rapidly changing this week, this time not due to the coastal storms that have ravaged the shoreline this winter but to implementation of the federal Army Corps of Engineers’ Fire Island to Montauk Point reformulation project.
The Ellis Island, a nearly 500-foot-long suction hopper dredge, arrived offshore on Sunday night and has begun to pump sand continuously around the clock, seven days a week, from offshore onto the downtown Montauk beach. The Ellis Island is an integral component in the project that calls for depositing 450,000 cubic yards of sand onto the beach, the easternmost element of the 83-mile-long Fire Island to Montauk Point beach renourishment project that was first authorized by the federal Rivers and Harbors Act in July 1960.
The Ellis Island, a 480-foot suction hopper dredge, is pumping sand onto the beach at downtown Montauk around the clock as the Fire Island to Montauk Point reformulation project ramps up this week. Durell Godfrey Photo
The sand is being pumped from an offshore site to the west, toward Hither Hills, East Hampton Town Councilman David Lys said at the town board’s meeting on Tuesday. One aspect of the project has changed, he said. The contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock of Houston, has determined that the subline, the pipe that sends the slurry of sand and seawater onto the beach, has been installed closer to the western terminus of the project. Consequently, instead of the work moving from east to west as initially intended, it is moving in the opposite direction.
The beach access at South Eton Street, at the western end of the project, is temporarily closed, and access to portions of the beach is temporarily restricted by fencing, with a 1,000-linear-foot safety zone that moves as the project makes its way from west to east. This is for public safety, Mr. Lys said. “A [Caterpillar] D7 dozer will not see you,” he said of the bulldozers shaping the beach, “and a D7 dozer will win. So please stay off the beach and out of the 1,000-linear-foot safety zone.”
Wind and ocean conditions are optimal this week for the contractor to work, Mr. Lys said. As of Monday night, “they are running in the middle of the night with lights facing the beach,” Mr. Lys said.
The contractor is beginning to shape the profiles of the beach and dune, Mr. Lys said, and “you’re going to see changes within the next couple of days.” He expects that the contractor will work “at a fast pace,” completing their work in around 30 days, weather permitting.
Beach infill will continue into April, if necessary, followed by demobilization. Upon completion, sand fencing and beach grass will be installed. The contract completion date is May 21, but the contractor must be off the beach by May 1 because of the arrival of threatened and endangered nesting shorebirds. Following the project’s completion, beach nourishment will continue on a four-year cycle for 30 years.
“It is here, it has started, it is 60 years in the making,” Mr. Lys summarized.