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Army Corps of Engineers gets funds to dredge Moriches Inlet

The Army Corps of Engineers will receive $12 million in federal funding for emergency dredging of Moriches Inlet to remove heavy sand buildup from four nor’easters that created hazardous boating conditions, House and Senate lawmakers announced Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said funding for the project was included in the Army Corps’ fiscal 2018 work plan.

In a statement, Schumer said the funds are desperately needed for boating safety and to help the local maritime-based economy.

“With these critical federal dollars, the ship has come in for Moriches Inlet,” Schumer said. “Locals will soon see a dredge ship get to work on emergency work that couldn’t come soon enough.”

In March, Zeldin joined with area boaters and fishermen to seek an emergency declaration to expedite dredging of the inlet, which feeds Moriches Bay and sits between Smith Point County Park and Cupsogue Beach County Park in Brookhaven and Southampton towns. The emergency declaration was approved in April, allowing the Army Corps to coordinate funding and permits.

Zeldin in a statement called the funding approval “great news for our coastal economy, commercial and recreational fishermen and all whose livelihoods rely on the vitality of our communities’ waterways.”

Four powerful storms last winter created a buildup of 300,000 cubic yards of sand clogging the inlet, which provides access to the Atlantic Ocean and is an economic driver for marine-related businesses in the region.

The Army Corps issued a solicitation last month for a dredging vessel to perform the work. A contract is expected to be awarded June 28.

Moriches Inlet last had an emergency dredging after superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Sand removed from the inlet will be placed at Smith Point County Park in Shirley to address beach erosion, Zeldin said.

The Coast Guard has advised against boat travel through the inlet since mid-March because of significant shoaling, with mariners encouraged to seek alternate navigable routes.

While $12 million is enough to complete the emergency work, a more complete dredging of the inlet will cost an additional $6 million, Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said.

Zeldin has also called for emergency dredging of Moriches Bay and the Long Island Intracoastal Waterway. Those requests remain under review, officials said.

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