Elected officials in Southampton, from the local to the federal level, are calling on the federal government to cover 100% of the cost to elevate Dune Road from the Shinnecock Inlet to the Westhampton Beach Village border—a project with a price tag between $7 million and $8 million.
At Oakland’s in Hampton Bays on Friday, October 25, during a press conference, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, of Southampton, said he and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer have asked Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo Ellen Darcy to direct part of the $700 million budget for the Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) Project toward elevating Dune Road.
FIMP has identified four roads to receive federal funding to be elevated—all west of the Moriches Inlet, Bishop said. They are pushing for Dune Road to become the fifth on that list.
They seek to have Dune Road raised 16 to 20 inches to maintain access to the Shinnecock Fishing Docks and protect the road from flooding. The project also aims to protect and restore the wetland and bay ecosystem.
“All we need is a full moon for Dune Road to flood,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. “Businesses are affected, homes are affected and public safety is affected.”
Southampton Town Highway Supervisor Alex Gregor said that the necessary permits are in hand, and any wetland losses due to the project will be offset.
Gregor said the cost is price tag is not steep when considering the alternative. “For every dollar you spend on mitigation, you save three dollars on repairs.”
Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi emphasized that Dune Road is vital for Southampton businesses and the commercial fishing fleet. “It also gives people all all area access to our beautiful beachfront and bayfront.”
Assemblyman Fred Thiele said that with all the investment put into the area to date, it would be unwise to let it go now, when doing nothing could mean Dune Road becoming cut off. “Over the last few decades, the federal government, together with the state government and the county government, have literally spent millions and millions of dollars here to dredge that inlet, to protect this beach to protect the fishing industry, to protect the restaurants, the commercial interests that are here that are so critical to the tax base of Southampton.”
He said it was a smart investment, “But it’s not a smart investment if you can’t get here.”
“We’ve known Dune Road had to be elevated for many years, but we just didn’t know how to pay for it,” Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said. “The town didn’t have the resources, the county didn’t have the resources. And this really is an unusual opportunity when for the first time we see the possibility of making this important project happen.”
In their letter to Darcy, Bishop and Schumer noted that the area of the Tiana Beach Pavilion on Dune Road was elevated in the 1960s, and it was protected during Superstorm Sandy. They offer this as evidence that elevating Dune Road is an effective line of defense.