Dredging had been tentatively scheduled for 2013 but the entrance to Montauk Harbor has been filling so rapidly with drifting sand that larger vessels have been hitting bottom at low tide. The channel is supposed to be 12 feet deep at low tide but that was less than 7 feet in some spots in the spring.
The corps' New York District has awarded a contract to North America Landscaping, Construction, and Dredge Co. The project is scheduled to begin this month and is expected to be completed by the end of December. It will deepen the channel to 14 feet. The 15,000 to 20,000 cubic yards of dredged sand will be pumped onto the adjacent eroded west jetty beach.
"The maintenance dredging cycle has been accelerated as a result of several severe storms starting early in 2011," said Col. John R. Boulé, the corps district commander. "The dredging will greatly improve navigational safety and benefit the various frequent users of this channel, including commercial fishermen, the Coast Guard and recreational boaters."
The corps noted that the channel is used by Coast Guard Station Montauk's search and rescue boats and the cutter Ridley. The commercial fishing fleet brings in an average of 6,000 tons of fish annually.
"Dredging Lake Montauk in 2011 is vital to the jobs in Montauk's fishing industry as well as the homeland security mission of the Coast Guard," said Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). "I am pleased we remain on schedule to provide relief not only to the fishermen, but also to homeowners whose property will be better protected from erosion."
Bishop arranged the funding after visiting the harbor in February. He and his staff met several times with corps officials, and he appealed directly to the White House for quick action.
Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said, "Fishing offshore in the winter is tough enough; worrying about getting into port should never be part of the equation. Because of Congressman Bishop's tenacious efforts to accelerate the maintenance dredge, the fleet can now breathe easier when coming home."
The channel was last dredged in 2009.
Separate from the dredging, the corps is partnering with the state Department of Environmental Conservation on a study for navigation improvements and coastal storm damage risk reduction. The study is analyzing the feasibility of deepening and widening the channel and placing the dredged sand on the shoreline farther west with potential use of groins to hold the sand in place. A draft of that study is expected to be completed next year.