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Storm damage clogs Montauk Inlet

The Lake Montauk inlet connects Lake Montauk to

The Lake Montauk inlet connects Lake Montauk to Block Island Sound. (Jan. 5, 2011) Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

Damage from recent storms has made Montauk Inlet nearly impassable, and local officials want to find funding to fix the problem.

The inlet, which connects Lake Montauk to Block Island Sound, is supposed to be 12 feet deep, officials said.

But Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who was among the two boatloads of federal, state and local officials who toured the inlet last week, said recent storms have formed shoals, reducing the depth to 6 feet in some places at Montauk, the state's busiest fishing port.

Local fishermen said clogging at the inlet, due to sand, had become so severe that some boats had been trapped in port and others had been detoured to other harbors.

Bill Grimm, one of the owners of Inlet Seafood, said one of his boats has not used the port in three weeks and he has had to unload fish in Rhode Island and New Jersey.

"It's supposed to be 12 feet [deep], but it's down to 7 feet," Grimm said of the inlet.

He added that other commercial fishing boats often had to stay outside the inlet for hours to await favorable tide or wind conditions.

The shoaling is so heavy that two boats cannot pass each other in the center of twin groins that protect the inlet.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is next scheduled to dredge the inlet in 2013, but officials - including Bishop, State Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr. (R-Sag Harbor) and East Hampton Supervisor Bill Wilkinson - are hoping to move up the timetable.

Bishop said he was working to find the money needed to re-dredge the channel this year and Thiele said he would seek to get the State Legislature to approve extra funds to dredge the channel an extra foot deep, taking out an additional 3,500 cubic yards of sand.

The Corps' just-completed study said between 12,000 and 16,000 cubic yards of sand have accumulated in the channel since it was last dredged in 2009.

Any sand removed will be deposited on the badly eroded western side of Montauk Inlet, the Corps has said.

The dredging work could cost as much as $2 million, Bishop said.

"It won't be a slam dunk," said the congressman. "It will be a heavy lift."

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