- 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.