The East Hampton Town Board voted on July 2 to give the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers a temporary access easement near the Montauk Lighthouse so that an extensive reconstruction of the roughly 1,000-foot-long rock revetment that wraps around the Point can proceed.
The easement will allow the Army Corps to establish a staging area to the south and west of the lighthouse, a site that was used for the same purpose during past work on the revetment. The staging area will remain throughout the duration of the reconstruction. The agreement allows for “modest widening of the road and improvement to the road in terms of adding gravel and stabilization in order to allow large trucks to traverse that driveway,” Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said.
The trucks will transport armor stones weighing up to 15 tons to the staging area, where they will be sorted by size and shape. “It’s really a pretty remarkable and artful ability to be able to take such large stones and place them in a way to fit like a jigsaw puzzle, and basically close out any gaps,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “It’s very technical, but also very artful.”
A second proposed staging area for the project is to the north of the lighthouse and was not subject to the easement the board authorized on July 2.
Public access will be limited during the expected two-year duration of the project, a concern to the fishermen and surfers who frequent the Point and the surrounding waters. The landmark also draws tourists throughout the year. But “there will be temporary access to the beach at all times,” said Councilman David Lys.
The reconstruction of the revetment, which was found to be degrading and inadequate to protect the bluff, is meant to ensure that the historic structure is still standing 100 years from now despite ongoing erosion and extreme weather events.
The project to protect the lighthouse, a designated national landmark, has been under development for several years. Last August, Brian Frank, the chief environmental analyst with the town Planning Department, told the board that the Army Corps’s 2005 evaluation to rebuild the revetment, which is around 30 years old, never came to fruition, but an environmental impact statement prepared at the time had recently been updated. According to the Army Corps, which will oversee the project, a revetment reconstruction is necessary to keep the 223-year-old lighthouse and associated structures from toppling into the Atlantic Ocean.
The updated impact statement corresponded with an announcement by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office that the estimated $24 million reconstruction of the revetment would proceed, funded by a Hurricane Sandy relief bill approved by Congress in 2013, as well as state funding.
Since then, the plan has “moved through the various stages of government permitting,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said at the July 2 meeting. “Every box has been checked off and we’re now at the stage of finalizing the access agreement.” A letter of concurrence has been sent to the National Park Service, which has also signed off on the project, he said. The easement “is the last remaining aspect in order for this project to move forward.”
The Montauk Historical Society, which owns the lighthouse, “strongly supported this effort and encouraged us to grant access easements over the town-owned property, which is located at Turtle Cove,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said.
At a meeting at the Montauk Firehouse last November, an Army Corps official described a design featuring stone blocks placed on top of a layer of smaller material, forming the revetment’s forward-facing section. A sloping “apron” would surround that, extending downward and partially buried in the seabed.
The work is to be conducted in sequence, beginning with a 20-foot-wide flat “bench,” or road-like platform, about 10 feet above sea level, from which heavy equipment would install the stone apron. The bench would remain once construction is completed and a second would be built about 10 feet higher than that, giving the revetment a step-like profile to better protect the bluff, the official said.