Fire Island to Montauk Point - History

The project was authorized by the River and Harbor Act of 1960, dated 14 July 1960, substantially in accordance with the recommendations of the Chief of Engineers set forth in House Document No. 425, 86th Congress dated 21 June 1960. The authorized project provides for beach erosion control and hurricane protection along five reaches of the Atlantic Coast of New York from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point by means of widening the beaches along the developed areas to a minimum width of 100 feet to an elevation of 14 feet above mean sea level, and by raising dunes to an elevation of 20 feet above mean sea level, by artificial placement of suitable sand. The project also calls for grass planting on the dunes, and construction of interior drainage structures at Mecox Bay, Sagaponack Lake and Georgica Pond.

The originally authorized project (1960) was developed prior to the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In accordance with NEPA requirements, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the entire project area was prepared by the District and filed with USEPA on 28 January 1978. On 7 March 1978, the Department of the Interior (DOI), supported by other agencies, referred the EIS to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) as unacceptable. The CEQ concluded that the EIS did not look at a sufficiently wide range of alternatives, nor did it treat the entire project area as a complete system. On 6 June 1978, the CEQ recommended project reformulation to the Chief of Engineers, who in turn directed the District to reformulate the project. In order to develop the scope of studies necessary for the Reformulation Study and Environmental Impact Statement, meetings were held between September 1978 and January 1980 with DOI, USEPA, U.S. Department of Commerce and NYSDEC. Two public scoping meetings were held in October 1979. Subsequently, the Federal agencies agreed to a Plan of Study, dated July 1980, which included an agreement on the studies necessary to complete the reformulation study and EIS.

Following the original project authorization in 1960, a series of design memoranda were planned to be prepared for the entire project along the South Shore of Long Island from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point, New York. General Design Memorandum No. 1, covering the portion

of the project between Moriches and Shinnecock Inlets, was approved by the Chief of Engineers on 9 January 1964, and recommended improvements including 13 of the 23 groins authorized for construction in this portion. Local interests objected to the placement of dune and beachfill concurrent with groin construction, therefore the plan included initially constructing 11 groins in Reach 2 and 2 groins in Reach 4, with beach fill to be added as necessary but not sooner than 3 years after groin completion. The need for, and the design of, the 2 groins at East Hampton (Reach 4) was discussed in a special report of design memorandum scope generated in July 1964. Construction of 11 groins in Reach 2 was completed in September 1966. Construction of 2 groins in Reach 4 was completed in September 1965.

In February 1969, Supplement No.1 to GDM No. 1 (Moriches to Shinnecock Reach) was prepared, which recommended the construction of 4 more groins and placement of beach fill backed by a dune at an elevation of 16 feet above mean sea level (M.S.L.) in the 6,000 ft section of beach west of the 11 groin field (Section 1A). The 4 new groins were filled with 1.95 million cubic yards of sand to construct a beach and dune. This groin construction was completed in July 1970, bringing the total number of groins in Reach 2 to fifteen. Dune and beach fill was placed between October 1969 and October 1970.

New York District prepared plans for 6 additional groins to the west of the constructed groin field at Westhampton (Section 1B). However, in November 1971, New York State withdrew support due to a moratorium it imposed on capital projects funding. In April 1973, the State requested that the New York District resume planning for the construction of Section 1B. In November 1974, the Suffolk County Executive stated opposition to Section 1B construction and to the use of Moriches Bay and inlet borrow sources. Based upon a 1975 request by the State to develop a plan for Section 1B using ocean borrow material for the required fill, the District initiated investigations and design efforts to develop borrow sources and the Section 1B plan.

In 1978, the Suffolk County Legislature and New York State approved participation in the Reach 2 proposed project, including for beach fill and dune construction. Concerned Federal agencies agreed to a basis for proceeding with the development of Supplement No. 2 to GDM No. 1, independent of the overall Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point reformulation effort due to critical erosion in the area. In 1981, it was determined that cost-sharing for proposed work at Westhampton Beach would be a 6% Federal, 94% non-Federal cost-sharing ratio for periodic nourishment, based upon interpretation of the authorization. Subsequently, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stated that local funding for cost sharing could not be provided for the project, as authorized, but that it would pursue a Congressional change to the project authorization to provide for greater Federal support of cost-sharing for periodic nourishment. As a result, planning for construction for the completion of the Moriches to Shinnecock reach was suspended due to lack of local support. Since there was a lack of support for the most critical area of the Fire Island to Montauk Point project, all work regarding the reformulated project was suspended.

The periodic renourishment cost-sharing issue was resolved following the enactment of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, Section 502, in which specific cost sharing provisions calling for 70 percent Federal funding were applied to periodic nourishment of continuing construction at Westhampton Beach, for a period of 20 years following the Act. With this resolution, the State was willing to participate in a plan for Reach 2 (Westhampton Beach). In light of New York State's willingness to participate in a plan for this, the most eroded reach of the overall project area, coordination between the State and the New York District resumed on both Westhampton Beach and the reformulation study.

After a series of meetings between representatives of the State and Federal governments, the District requested that the State propose a plan that was acceptable to all State and County agencies. By letter dated September 20, 1989, the State proposed such a plan, which became known as the State's preferred interim plan for Westhampton Beach. Although providing a lesser level of protection, the State's plan was a variation of the plan approved by HQUSACE (Supplement No. 2 to GDM No. 1; Moriches to Shinnecock Reach) in 1980. In January 1990, the District responded to the plan, offering modifications to the State's plan to comply with Corps' coastal engineering methodology. The State agreed with the recommended changes, and in July 1990 submitted a letter, which indicated the agreement of concerned parties and requested the Corps to proceed with the engineering and design efforts necessary for project implementation. In 1991 the District issued a Public Notice for a conceptual plan. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) responded to the public notice by saying that they generally agreed to the interim plan, but could not fully endorse it until an environmental assessment and/or environmental impact study was completed and the reformulation effort for the overall project was reinstated. The US Department of Interior (DOI) provided correspondence, which stated its concurrence with the proposed interim plan provided that the plan be implemented with regard for endangered and threatened species in the area.

In 1992 the District began concurrent efforts on the overall reformulation and the study for an interim project for the Westhampton Beach portion of the Moriches Inlet to Shinnecock Inlet reach. The District prepared the initial project management plan (IPMP) dated June 1993 for the reformulation, to completely study the Fire Island to Montauk Point project area as a barrier island system and to consider a wide range of possible plan alternatives.

After the development of the IPMP, the New York District was requested by the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army to evaluate the possibility of developing other interim projects under the reformulation effort. The request was due to significant shoreline change and damages to existing infrastructure which occurred as a result of the December 1992 Nor'easter and March 1993 storm.

During the December 1992 Nor'easter two significant breaches occurred in the vicinity of Pikes Beach, spanning approximately 4000 feet, westward of the westernmost groin. The District placed approximately 60,000 cy of material taken from the Intracoastal Waterway in the western breach (dubbed Pikes Inlet) in January 1993. The eastern breach was originally the smaller of the two and was dubbed Little Pikes Inlet. Additional winter storms plus tidal and littoral forces resulted in a growth of this breach to about 3000 feet wide and 12 feet deep. The District and the NYSDEC agreed to share the cost to close the remaining breach with material from a designated offshore borrow site. Construction of the breach closure of Little Pikes Inlet was initiated in May 1993 and was completed in November 1993.

Additional erosion in the community of Westhampton Dunes, (west of the Westhampton groins) prompted an interim project, approved in 1995 and completed in 1997, that provided for a beach berm and dune, tapering of the two westernmost existing groins, construction of an additional groin, and periodic renourishment for a 30-year period. Additional renourishments occurred in 2001, 2004, 2008, and 2014 (after Hurricane Sandy). An additional interim project was also approved in 2002 and constructed in 2006, which provided additional beach nourishment along 4,000 feet of vulnerable shoreline immediately west of Shinnecock inlet. This area was also renourished in 2013 after Hurricane Sandy.

An interim Breach Contingency Plan was approved in 1996, authorizing USACE to quickly close barrier island breaches within three months. This plan was implemented during Hurricane Sandy to close two breaches of the barrier islands at Smith Point County Park and Cupsogue County Park.
In 2009, New York District provided a Formulation Report to the general public and key government partners and stakeholders for their consideration. Based on feedback, a tentative federally supported plan (TFSP) was jointly identified with the Department of Interior (DOI) and submitted to the nonfederal sponsor, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in March 2011. Just over a year later in October 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall, leading to severe and substantial coastal flooding, erosion, and wave damages in the project area. There were three breaches along Fire Island, multiple overwashes, extensive shorefront damages, and extensive back bay flooding. As a consequence, it was estimated that Fire Island lost 55% of its pre-storm subaerial beach volume, equating to a loss of 4.5 million cubic yards of sand.

The significant changes wrought by Hurricane Sandy prompted a reanalysis of the tentative federally supported plan. As an authorized but unconstructed project, this reanalysis was performed at full federal expense, as authorized by P.L. 113-2, which provides funding for post-Sandy recovery projects. In July 2016, a draft GRR and EIS was released for public and agency review. Included features in the recommended plan required an exception to a USACE policy requirement, allowing for a mutually acceptable plan consistent with the requirements of Section 8 of Public Law 88-587 (establishment of the Fire Island National Seashore). In October 2017, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) granted this exception. The final GRR and EIS detail this recommended plan was released in September 2020. For more information please read the Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point Project Fact Sheet or email the Project Manager.