More than$1.2 million in federal funding has been secured for an emergency dredging of Lake Montauk in the fall.
Federal, state, and local officials have been to address the perennial sand build-up in the inlet. Shoaling has prevented commercial fishing boats and a Coast Guard Station Montauk cutter from passing through the channel during low tide. The project, they have said, is imperative to ensure the economic well-being of the area, as well as the safety of fisherman and boaters.
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson credited U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Southampton, with sucessfully advocating that the Army Corps of Engineers reallocate money from its 2011 budget, as passed by Congress, to the project.
When asked, Bishop said it was a tall order. "This was a heavy lift. This was not easy to do. The Army Corps budget has been cut significantly. Not only were they dealing with significantly less money, but they were dealing with a project they didn't think they were going to have to do," he said by phone on Tuesday afternoon.
The emergency project will begin no earlier than late September, Bishop said. He added it will be federally funded, with no money being kicked in locally.
"Montauk commercial fishing port is the busest commercial fishing port in the State of New York," Bishop said. "This also means a lot ot the recreational fishing industry."
Wilkinson agreed. "Once again the channel for ingress and egress for our commercial fisherman won't be threatened," Wilkinson said. "It's important for the viability of the commerical fishing industry as well as the proper viability of that lake."
Commercial fishermen had waited 7 to 12 hours outside the breakwater just to re-enter the harbor, while others have been offloading in Rhode Island and New Jersey instead.
In February, the Army Corps of Engineers of the inlet that showed nearly 20,000 cubic yards of sands needs to be removed. There was evidence that shoaling had accelerated.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., I-Sag Harbor, said the state Legislature has produced a resolution to urge that the dredging project be moved up in light of the winter storms.
Where the dredged sand spoils will go is still a question. Property owners to the west, along Soundview Drive, have been threatening their waterfront homes. The jetties at the inlet have been blamed for stopping a flow of sand to their beaches.
If the homeowners want the spoils to replenish their lost sand, funding for that will have to come from elsewhere, Bishop said. "By law in emergency dredging, the spoil must be deposited in the nearest available," he said. "That will have to be paid for by some other entity," from the town to the state.