The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has opened a solicitation of bids for the West of Shinnecock Inlet Dune Road Project.
Wednesday, January 8, marks the beginning of the official process to find a contractor to place 600,000 to 800,000 cubic yards of sand to restore the Hampton Bays beach to its 2005 authorization level, which would be a better, more robust outcome than simply restoring it to its 2019 pre-storm level.
“This is an urgent situation along Dune Road affecting our community’s small businesses and jobs, and I am encouraged that the Army Corps is doing everything in its power within federal law to respond quickly and effectively to this urgent matter,” Congressman Lee Zeldin said. “The Army Corps has even sped up the bid process, which significantly reduces the timeline for bidding and start of construction.”
Multiple recent storms have caused severe damage to the dunes along the ocean side and led to severe flooding and washovers and a near breach of the barrier island just west of Shinnecock Inlet. With the dunes completely destroyed, some storms pushed flooding across Dune Road to the Shinnecock Commercial Fishing Dock.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman issued his first local state of emergency September 10 citing an imminent breach. Heavy duty Suffolk County Department of Public Works equipment was hauled in to shore up and essentially rebuild the 750-foot dune across the street from the Shinnecock Commercial Fishing Dock. Subtropical storm Melissa had battered the barrier island and almost washed away the entire dune with its high tide. Schneiderman said in early November, following yet another storm, he couldn’t believe what he saw.
“This beach was as flat as the road was, and we had wind and waves moving right across Dune Road into the Shinnecock Commercial Fishing Dock right across the street,” the supervisor said. “We were struggling to prevent a breach.”
At that time, Suffolk County moved 200 truckloads of sand overnight in the dark and rain. At 3000 cubic yards, it got the town through several storm high tides. But it washed out again and again as more storms continue to wallop the south shore and erode any protections put in place.
State Senator Chuck Schumer visited the site in late November demanding immediate action following several storms. He said then after speaking with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander and District Engineer for New York Colonel Thomas Asbery November 25, a dredge would soon be on the way.
“It’s been a project for all of us for decades to get the kind of protection we need to preserve the dunes, preserve the south bay, all of the inlets, and the south shore mainland,” he said. “When Superstorm Sandy hit, we worked hard to get lots of help to not just restore what was lost, but provide resilience. And we did. But when storms come and undo some of the work that was done we can’t just sit there and twiddle our thumbs — we’ve got to get to work.”
That month, 90,000 yards had been moved with the help of the Suffolk County Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation, and Town of Southampton. While the efforts were ongoing, the depletion of sand has been a recurring issue since 1938, when the Shinnecock Inlet was created to stabilize the area as a result of a breach. The federal inlet was protected with jetties, but sand is trapped on the far side where the beach is much wider, which has resulted in the loss of 600 feet of beach.
“This week’s progress is continued good news for our local economy and the restaurants and other businesses, including the second largest commercial fishing dock in New York, that operate in the affected area,” Zeldin said. “I’m grateful to Colonel Asbery and his team at the Army Corps for their continued hard work and partnership on this project and all across our beautiful district.”