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Nov 26, 2019 3:54 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Schumer And Zeldin Push For Federal Assistance Along Dune Road

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said he is working at the federal level to get additional dredging in Hampton Bays. GREG WEHNER
Dec 12, 2019 8:10 AM

The flooding and coastal erosion that has occurred along Dune Road in Hampton Bays has gained the attention of two federal legislators who are vowing to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build up the beach and correct the problem.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, during a press conference atop a dune on Dune Road near the Shinnecock commercial fishing docks on November 26, called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to step up and help in Hampton Bays, which is suffering from coastal erosion and resulting flooding from an onslaught of storms that have battered Long Island over the past two months.

“We can get help from our friends at the Army Corps,” Mr. Schumer said. “I spoke to [Colonel Thomas Asbery] just last night — he’s the head of the New York Army Corps office. I fight for the Army Corps, I get them money — they’re a great group. They do a very good job, but there’s something more they can do, and that is to make sure that the damage that was done by the October storms is corrected and corrected quickly.”

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin also visited the area along Dune Road on the morning of November 26 along with Suffolk County Department of Public Works Chief Engineer William Hillman.

According to a press release, Mr. Zeldin has been in contact with the U.S. Army Corps regarding the situation. He also requested that Weeks Marine move one of two dredges to Shinnecock Inlet to assist with beach replenishment efforts.

The only line of defense for protecting the fishing docks from the Atlantic Ocean is a dune system separating the two. Since October 10, the dune has been knocked out by two nor’easters and rebuilt a number of times.

Each time a storm approached, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman worked with Suffolk County officials to get the dunes built back up — but it has become too much.

“I was here just two weeks ago, and this beach was as flat as the road was, and we had waves moving right across into the commercial dock across the street, and we were struggling to prevent a breach,” Mr. Schneiderman said at the press event. “We are in a desperate situation trying to prevent another breach. This is way beyond the resources of the Town of Southampton. It’s beyond the resources of Suffolk County. We need state and federal help here.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone echoed Mr. Schneiderman, saying, “That is not sustainable, and is certainly not something that we can continue to handle on a local level.”

Mr. Schumer said the Army Corps is currently working on a project west of Southampton and, when that is finished, is scheduled to leave the area because of high demand for the dredge. Some of the projects, he said, are not as critical as the situation in Hampton Bays.

The Army Corps is permitted to step in and correct a situation, even without funding in place.

“They don’t need new money and they don’t need new legislation, because a law that was passed — Public Law 84-99 — says the Army Corps has the right … to step up and dig in and undo the damage that occurred last month,” Mr. Schumer said. “So we are asking the Army Corps — and I asked Colonel Asbery last night — to use the law to fix what has happened, to fix things here in the Town of Southampton, to fix things the Town of Brookhaven, [and] to fix things in the Town of Islip. We can’t wait for next year’s federal budget, although we will propose more money for the Army Corps in that budget.”

Mr. Schumer said he hoped to have an answer from the Army Corps soon, but that either way he planned to continue to push to get the assistance needed in Hampton Bays.

“The county, towns and villages have done a good job, temporarily, building things back up,” he said. “But if we don’t make it as strong as possible, the next time there’s a storm, all of this can be undone. So a stitch in time saves nine, and getting the Army Corps to send the pumpers and barges up and down here will give us better protection than we have now — and we need it.”

As of Monday, there were no plans to move the federal dredge to Hampton Bays, according to Mr. Schneiderman. “I haven’t heard anything since,” he said. “One thing I’m hearing is, if we are able to get the federal dredge, it is unlikely we will see it in less than 100 days from now.” That would put the dredge off the coast in March or April, at the earliest.

One of the main hurdles, the supervisor added, is that it takes 90 days to get funding in place.

The sand being pumped onto the beach currently, Mr. Schneiderman said, may last a month, maybe longer, depending on the frequency and intensity of storms that come through.

Because of that, he is working with experts to develop a “Plan B” course of action that involves an emergency measure to move sand onto the beach on an as-needed basis.

“I think that we have to prepare ourselves that we may have to get through the winter without the dredge,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

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