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Cuomo: Breaches near Moriches Inlet to be closed

Pictured here is dredging equipment in the Moriches

Pictured here is dredging equipment in the Moriches inlet. A breech formed just east of the inlet during superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 16, 2012) Credit: John Roca

State officials Friday announced that starting next week, workers will begin to fill in a breach east of Moriches Inlet caused by superstorm Sandy.

State Department of Environmental Conservation and Army Corps of Engineers officials held a news conference at Cupsogue Beach County Park, overlooking the 1,000-foot-wide breach. The park sits at the end of Dune Road, which suffered several washouts from Sandy.

The breach will be filled in with 200,000 cubic yards of sand that is being dredged from the inlet to form a 10-foot-high, 150-foot-wide barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and Moriches Bay. The company contracted to do the work is Great Lakes Dredge & Dock of Oak Brook, Ill.

Army Corps district commander Col. Paul Owen said he expects the breach to be filled within two weeks at a cost of $6 million.

The federal government will cover 65 percent of the costs, Owen said. Of the remainder, officials said, the state will pick up 70 percent of the tab, and the county the rest.

The breach is the first to be repaired under the Breach Contingency Plan, developed in the 1990s after delays caused repair costs for a breach nearby to soar into millions of dollars. DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, who was getting his first look at the Cupsogue Beach break, said Friday the quick response and cooperation from different levels of government shows "this is not history repeating itself."

A second, smaller breach at Smith Point County Park, will be targeted next, officials said. Fixing that 50-yard-wide break, west of the west jetty in Moriches Inlet, is expected to cost $1.25 million. Owen said no contractor has been secured for that job.

He said a third breach in the wilderness area of Fire Island National Seashore is still being assessed as to whether it needs to be closed.

"Closing these breaches expeditiously will prevent them from getting deeper, wider and more difficult and expensive to repair," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.

While state officials pointed out the economic and environmental benefits of breach repair, West Hampton Dunes Village Mayor Gary Vegliante said there are also other, crucial reasons to quickly fix the break.

"This will protect millions of dollars of infrastructure and people's safety and lives on the mainland," he said. "This is the first line of defense."

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