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Bishop Battles Beach Erosion; Makes Case In Congress For Coastline Project

Originally Posted: June 03, 2008

Andrea Aurichio

  |   6 Comments · Print Article

The Montauk Point Lighthouse built in 1796 has been threatened by erosion for decades despite intense efforts to shore up the bluffs and stave off the actions of the winds, tides, and weather that take away more of the bluffs each year leaving the Lighthouse closer to the edge of the cliffs as time goes by. Photo by Christine Bellini

Southampton - Congressman Tim Bishop (D-New York) vowed to continue his efforts to preserve the shoreline and halt encroaching coastal erosion in his East End district that is surrounded by water and interspersed with a network of creeks and inlets that define the low-lying Long Island coastal region he represents.

In a conference call from his office in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Bishop spoke to a group of five reporters from eastern Long Island who participated in the conference call set up by his press office clearly taking advantage of the approaching beach season to further advance the oft-times floundering and staggeringly expensive campaign to secure coastal protection that began nearly a decade ago.

Congressman Tim Bishop has waged an on-going battle at the federal level to restore
funding for studies and projects aimed at protecting the East End coastal areas.

The region's multi-billion dollar a year tourist industry is inextricably linked to the areas beaches and waterways. The protection and preservation of these shoreline areas is crucial to the region environmentally and economically. In addition to the value of the waterfront to the tourist industry, Bishop also pointed to the substantial property values involved in shorefront homes and properties.

"We are talking about one of the most important public works projects ever undertaken in terms of the economic and environmental issues involved," Bishop said. "I am willing to step forward and take the risks and the responsibility for promoting this project." Bishop noted the project required the involvement of "someone with the stature of a congressman," if it was to move forward. The long-term coastal protection plan has had many setbacks over the years.

Funding for the project has been cut and restored at intervals during the last eight years subject to the pitfalls of political agendas and dependent on the efforts of elected officials, particularly at the congressional level to lobby for its budgetary inclusion.

According to information provided by Bishop's office, the shorefront preservation project, known as The Fire Island to Montauk Reformulation Study has been underway since 1999, and has cost taxpayers more than $24 million. When the study portion of the project, now expected to be completed by 2009 is finished, the price tag passed on to taxpayers will exceed $30 million.

The Fire Island to Montauk Point Study undertaken nearly 10
years ago is expected to be completed by 2009 when actual
work to prevent erosion along the East End's coastal areas will
begin. In the meantime, valuable beachfront washes away each
year to weather conditions and the intrusion of development on
the once pristine shoreline.

Then, the actual preservation work will begin. The final cost involved in the long-range plan to preserve and protect the area's waterfront is expected to tally in the hundreds of millions. The Fire Island to Montauk Point project has focused on an 83-mile stretch of shoreline along the South Shore of the Island fronting on the Atlantic Ocean. The Fire Island Seashore, The Flight 800 Memorial at Smith Point in Westhampton, and the well-known landmark Montauk Point Lighthouse are among the seaside resources that will benefit from the project once the work phase of the project is underway.

The large scale public works project is dependent on federal funding as well as federal cooperation and continued participation that has not been forthcoming during the years of the Bush Administration in Washington, D.C. when funding for such projects was stricken from the federal budget. This year, according to Congressman Bishop, the 2009 federal budget will provide the funding needed to finally complete the study phase of the project.

Bishop was optimistic this week that the project would gain support and cooperation from the United States Army Corps of Engineers as well as from the United States Department of the Interior. "The project has a lot of controversial elements to it," Bishop said, "its implementation will require a great deal of cooperation."

While the Congressman was vague about the details of the massive project to protect the regions coastal areas he elicited gasps of disbelief and disapproval from the reporters participating in the conference call when he noted the project could involve the "taking" of private waterfront lands, if it was a means of preserving endangered shoreline areas. Bishop was quick to note that nothing had been decided yet, since the project has not yet completed the study phase - then cautioned reporters not to get ahead of the situation.

"The project will be intense once it gets underway," Bishop expected, "We will be meeting with stakeholders. Some people will want us to do more than we are doing, some will want less."

Then one question of great importance to the eastern end on Long Island arose as the Congressman prepared to end the conference call and head for the airport. "What will you do about the Montauk Lighthouse," a reporter asked.

"This is undoubtedly a work in progress," Bishop answered.

The federal government has not always been forthcoming with funding to protect the East End's coastal region despite the economic and environmental value of the area's waterfront properties estimated in the billions. Photo by Peter Neely

The Montauk Point Lighthouse was built in 1796. Its construction was authorized by the second Congress of the United States under the leadership of President George Washington. Work began on the Lighthouse, which still functions as an active aid to navigation for the ships at sea, on June 7, and was completed by Nov. 5, 1796. It was erected 300 feet from the edge of the bluff when it was put into use according to historical records. Today, despite many attempts to stave off erosion and save the Lighthouse, the building sits a scant 75 feet from the edge of a cliff that continues to suffer the onslaught of harsh weather, whipping winds and churning waves at the eastern most tip of Long Island.

As the wheels of government seek a gainful push, time and tide continue to wait for no man.

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Guest (Stevieflounder) from HamptonBays says::
Maybe Congress could get all of their WIND together and blow the sand back where it was !! I'm not paying for it either.
Jun 6, 2008 8:47 am

Guest (ezekieljones) from montauk, ny says::
It's great that the shoreline problems are being addressed, but a million tons of sand will eventually wind up west. It seems to me a better, more permanent solution would be the construction of an artificial reef off Montauk. Would allow sand to acreed and slow wave action. Would save these hotels and Montauk's tourism. You may not like the tourism but without it this community is done.
Jun 5, 2008 4:15 pm

Guest (Surfnturf) from Montauk says::
Hey Mr. Bishop how about a reality check? Why don't YOU pay for the sand castles. I'm having a hard time paying for the diesel for my truck. If you guys in Congress weren't asleep since the last energy crisis we'd be off foreign fuel already. And how are you getting the $$$- another earmark?
Jun 4, 2008 1:23 pm

Guest (Lovethebeachbut) from Sag Harbor says::
Are you kidding me? Has anyone told the congressman that Long Island is a sand bar, and the waves and weather are doing what they are meant to do. Who told people to build houses there? We take each day as it comes and say "Thank you." To spend billions of taxpayers dollars to try and defeat Mother Nature is an exercise in futility. If this is what we have to look forward to with the Democrats in power, we're in big trouble.
Jun 4, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (DrBOB ) from Southampton, NY says::
Making the case for beach erosion? I can think of 100 other more important issues that he should be making the case for starting with the non-existent energy program that should have been worked out 30 years ago when 'Jimma Carta' had us at the mercy of the Saudi's- and Bush still does! That Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela and others are drilling in the Gulf- and we're paying 5 buck a gallon and ... illegals continue to drain our tax base and infrastructure at every turn- partially due to Bishop's hiring halls... and he's talking to Congress about an earmark for SAND???
Jun 4, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Hamptons Taxpayer) from Southampton says::
This is just an election year "make the voters feel good" scheme. Of course Mr. Bishop was "vague". If he could stop the ocean maybe he could travel to the sun with a fire extinguisher and stop global warming as well.
Jun 3, 2008 8:39 pm


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