Dredging is expected to begin next month at Shinnecock Inlet, which has become so shallow since Tropical Storm Irene last year that some large commercial fishing boats have shifted to Montauk.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week awarded a $3.875 million contract to dredge 128,000 cubic yards of sand and deposit it on the eroded beach west of the inlet at Hampton Bays. The work will be done by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. and should begin about Nov. 1, said Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who secured $5.1 million in federal funds for the project. The project bids came in lower than expected.
The last dredging project at the inlet that serves a large commercial fishing fleet was in the winter of 2009-10, when about 500,000 cubic yards of sand were dredged with stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Investment Act.
Bishop said an additional $1.6 million in work at the inlet is expected to be authorized in the next two weeks with matching funds from the state. That will cover removal of an additional 115,000 cubic yards of sand. All of the dredging is expected to be completed by January.
"It's been a problem for a while," said Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. She said some large trawlers have been unable to get through the inlet and have relocated to Montauk, but the dredging might allow them to return to their regular home port. Shinnecock is the base for about 15 to 20 trawlers and additional commercial and recreational fishing boats.
Coast Guard patrol boats have not had trouble traveling through the inlet, a spokesman said.
The agency last month warned boaters to avoid Fire Island Inlet because accumulated sand there has made that waterway dangerously shallow. Federal officials have said there is little likelihood of dredging there to solve the problem for at least a year.