A multimillion-dollar plan for elevating Dune Road in Southampton -- to protect the bay and the bay-side houses on the fragile finger of oceanfront -- is to be unveiled Friday morning by federal, state and local officials.
The bipartisan group's members all agree that the cost -- estimated by Southampton Town at between $7 million and $8 million -- should be paid for by the federal government, as a response to the threat of another storm like superstorm Sandy.
In a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), they urged that Dune Road, roughly between Quogue Village and the Ponquogue Bridge, be elevated 16 inches to 20 inches to provide "a much needed line of flood defense along the barrier island."
State Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said protecting Shinnecock Bay from ocean wash-overs was important to limit changes in salinity, which can affect shellfish and plant life, and to protect the multimillion-dollar homes on the bay side of Dune Road, the only way of getting off the island.
"At least once a year in the winter, I take that road," LaValle said. "I want to know what's happening on Dune Road. Many times, I literally have to turn around . . . it can get dicey."
The road elevation is also supported by local officials in Southampton who, along with county and village officials, planned to be at a news conference in Hampton Bays to announce the request to the Corps of Engineers.
LaValle said raising Dune Road has been discussed for years but is too costly for local governments. "Sandy put an exclamation point on it," LaValle said.
Bishop has held preliminary talks with the Corps of Engineers, and said the review process for the request should take no more than a few months. He said the major issue is not whether the work is needed, but what priority the Corps of Engineers gives it, compared to all the other requests for Sandy aid and protection measures.
"We have $700 million. That sounds like a lot, but it goes quickly," Bishop said.