During the summer of 2021, the late Fisherman Magazine senior editor and I rode to Montauk to visit the stonework being laid for the Montauk Lighthouse revetment project. That was almost three years ago, and on August 18th of this year, the project was officially declared complete.
For those of you who remember and have fished the former rocks around the lighthouse, you’d recall that they were no walk in the park. Some might consider those rocks one of the most treacherous places to fish in the Northeast. I could certainly attest to the danger involved in fishing at that location. Landing a fish on a calm night was even a pain, but with any ground swell coming in, you could be risking your safety.
While I haven’t visited the rocks since their official completion, I did see them when they were about 95% done. The new format comprises two tiers of stone that wrap around the entire base of the lighthouse. One way I would describe the rocks is that they are much more uniform, and no random rocks that had to be jumped over. The top tier has a gradual incline and runs right into the bottom level. Like the top, the bottom tier has a gradual rise in its front leading into the Atlantic Ocean. I observed the rocks during a good heave, and while I initially thought the layout could cause trouble for the bottom tier, all seemed pretty fishable despite the swells hitting the base of the rocks. No doubt a safety improvement over the previous rock structure.
For a little background of the project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) coastal storm damage risk management project included the reconstruction of approximately 1,000 linear feet of stone revetment, including removal and reuse of existing armor stones, and delivery and placement of new armor stones weighing anywhere between 10 and 20 tons apiece. The project was designed to protect the historic Montauk Point Lighthouse, complex, bluff area, and associated cultural resources by stabilizing the site and protecting it from future coastal storms.
The overall effort to restore and protect the historical landmark was approximately $44 million, including the award of a construction contract to H&L Contracting of Bay Shore in 2021. The project was cost-shared between USACE and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). DEC allocated $15.4 million in N.Y. Works funding as the project’s non-federal sponsor. The local sponsor, the Montauk Historical Society, will maintain the site for continued use as a tourism attraction and educational center.
In addition to completing the shoreline stabilization work, the Montauk Historical Society completed $2 million in renovations to the historic lighthouse and keeper’s residence. The lighthouse restoration work was undertaken concurrent with the revetment work and supported by more than $435,000 in New York State funding.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) awarded a $313,500 historic preservation grant, and Empire State Development awarded a $125,000 Capital Grant, recommended by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council in support of the Montauk Point Lighthouse as a premier historical, cultural, and recreational destination. The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) funding through the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) addressed damage to the lighthouse tower’s stone façade. It secured the long-term structural integrity of the historic structure.
The Montauk Historical Society secured additional private funds to help support the restoration of the 1796 lighthouse tower, the 1860 keeper’s residence, and the newly refurbished Oceans Institute, a museum focusing on the ocean’s health. The new features include an interactive virtual aquarium filled with local sea creatures, from scallops to whales.
I’m happy that the project has been completed in time for the 2023 Fred Golofaro Montauk Classic surfcasting tournament. The lighthouse rocks have always been one of the best spots to surf fish in Montauk or Long Island, for that matter, and several tournament-winning fish in the past have been caught at that location. I know I’ll be taking some casts off those rocks this fall.