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$30M project will fortify eroding shores near Montauk Lighthouse

People gather at the Montauk Lighthouse in August.

People gather at the Montauk Lighthouse in August. Credit: Yellow House Images/Andrew Theodorakis

A $30.7 million state and federal project to fortify the shoreline near the Montauk Lighthouse will protect the historic structure for generations to come, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday.

H&L Contracting of Bay Shore has been awarded the two-year contract for the project, which calls for removing and reusing existing five- and 10-ton armor stones and adding additional 10- and 15-ton armor stones to protect the shore. The work, expected to begin this spring, will also provide slope stabilization with terracing and vegetation above the upper crest of the coastal rock wall, which is known as a revetment.

The lighthouse, a national landmark commissioned by George Washington, sat 300 feet from the coast when it was built in 1796. Today, because of erosion, it is less than 100 feet from the ocean.

"The historic Montauk Point Lighthouse is a New York treasure, but erosion and the weight of years are threatening to wash it away," Cuomo said in a news release. "The state is committed to working with our federal partners to prevent that from happening and preserve this landmark for future generations of New Yorkers to explore and enjoy."

Army Corps New York District Col. Matthew Luzzatto added, "We look forward to making sure this important part of American history remains a symbol of our strength and American military engineering excellence for the next 100 years."

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is committing $15.4 million in NY Works funding, and the local sponsor, the Montauk Historical Society, will continue to maintain the site once construction is complete.

Greg Donohue, a historical society board member and the erosion control director for the lighthouse, said locals have been asking for 30 years for an engineered solution to protect the structure.

Donohue said that more than 100,000 visitors descended on the grounds this year, even as the lighthouse was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted the lighthouse is also undergoing a more than $1 million restoration of its exterior that, along with the revetment, will preserve it for another century.

"We really needed that engineered solution," Donohue said. "Most of it is holding together, but the eastern section of the wall is starting to fall apart. This is so timely that I am tickled pink."

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