volte-face

By:  Progress For WHB

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, in conjunction with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and Department of Interior, announced a plan to shorten the groins (jetties) in Westhampton Beach that have protected our shoreline since 1969.

The public comment period  is until October 19, 2016.

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The River and Harbor Act of 14 July 1960 provided for beach erosion control and hurricane protection along 83 miles of shoreline from Montauk to the Fire Island inlet.

By 1970 fifteen groins had been constructed by the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers that have for the past 46 years provided protection to Westhampton Beach.

The groins, spaced approximately 1250 ft. apart, function as intended and continue to provide coastal storm risk management to a once vulnerable reach of barrier island shoreline approximately 2.8 miles in length. — Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study – July 2016, page 94-95.

The Army Corp. of Engineers originally proposed the completion of six additional groins to the west of Westhampton Beach, but funding by the State of New York was temporarily put on hold in 1971.  By the time funding was restored it was determined that completion of the groin field was subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which required environmental review. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) said the plan was unacceptable and the current “reformulation” of the original plan is up for public consideration.  

The reformulated plan for Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) includes a proposal to shorten 13 groins in Westhampton1)under this plan the four additional groins at Georgica Ponds are exempt from modification but will be “monitored” Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study – July 2016, page 94 each by as much as 100 feet to intentionally cause the erosion “of upwards of 2,300,000 Cubic Yards of sand into the littoral system, which could be cost-effective if shown to significantly reduce expected renourishment requirements” for the shoreline to the west of Westhampton.   The estimated cost is $5,000,000.2) Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study – July 2016, page 95fimp-vision-statementpng_page1The men and women of the Army Corp. of Engineers who spent years of their lives preparing and implementing a plan that by every measure has been successful in Westhampton Beach (where they were permitted to finish their work) have been told to reformulate that plan but now with a very different vision of the future for the Village of Westhampton Beach and all of the oceanfront in the Town of Southampton.  See the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) here.  Know what a DEIS does and does not do by reading this.

With the Fire Island to Montauk Point plan progressing, now is perhaps the most important stage of the project. It’s time for our local municipalities and residents to participate in the process by reviewing and providing comments and suggestions on the draft plan. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the final outcome reflects what our local communities need. Specifically, we need a much greater focus on the dynamic Montauk coastline and implementing a larger scale soft, sand-only solution.

— Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

FIMP requires a commitment to be made for local funding in the future.  Federal funding is 100% upfront, but after that the burden is shifted to the state and local governments.  The plan is for the federal government to get out of the beach re-nourishment business completely within the next 30 years.  It is important to consider whether shortening the groins in favor of natural erosion and a sand only solution in the face of hurricanes and northeasters is consistent with the vision of the residents of Southampton Town and the Village of Westhampton Beach.

The near complete cessation of costly sand re-nourishment projects of ocean beaches makes sense.  However, the decision to substantially reduce the length of the groins that function as intended and continue to provide coastal storm risk management to a once vulnerable reach of barrier island shoreline approximately 2.8 miles in length” is a complete about-face that deserves very careful scrutiny of the costs and benefits.

Submit your comments on the Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) project.

e-mail your comments to:

Project Biologist Robert.J.Smith@usace.army.mil

and

Project Manager Mark.f.Lulka@usace.army.mil

or rely on snail and send to:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District Planning Division-Environmental Branch (ATTN: Mr. Robert Smith)
26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York 10278-0090

Comments provided will become part of the public record for this Environmental Impact Statement (EIS.)  All written comments, including names and address, will be made a part of the administrative record, available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Administrative Record, or portions thereof, may also be posted on a Corps of Engineers web site.The  acknowledgement of the receipt of comments or responses to individual letters and comments will not be provided but will be included and addressed in the final EIS.

References   [ + ]

1. under this plan the four additional groins at Georgica Ponds are exempt from modification but will be “monitored” Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study – July 2016, page 94
2. Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study – July 2016, page 95

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