Stonework, designed to reduce shoreline erosion and preserve a National Historic Landmark guiding mariners for over 200 years, has begun at the Montauk Lighthouse. The start of the project has been delayed for various reasons over the past two years and eventually the project had to be rebid. Construction finally got underway last month. The contractor, H&L Contracting, has completed all site preparations including setting up the staging area, building an access road to the revetment, fencing off the construction area and placing monitors on site to measure vibrations. In addition, the historic bunker has been successfully relocated from the revetment area and stone deliveries to the project site have begun. The stones are being trucked in. Full excavation and stonework on the revetment will likely have begun by the time you read this.
Work on the nearly 1,000 linear feet of stone revetment includes removing and reusing five- and 10-ton stones already in place, adding new 10- and 15-ton stones, and stabilizing the upper slope above the revetment with terracing and vegetation. It entails raising the seawall to 35 feet above sea level. It is currently at 25 feet. The existing seawall consists of 25,000 tons of rocks and the new one will contain 63,900 tons. The revetment will include a flat lower level ten feet above high water specifically for fishing. A flat upper level 20 feet above high water will provide safe access for tourists to navigate around the front of the lighthouse. Fishing “under the light” is expected to be off limits for approximately two years. The new fishing platform will provide safer and expanded access to more surfcasters once completed. Access to Turtle Cove will be maintained throughout the construction process, according to Tom Dess, who manages Montauk’s state parks.
The construction contract award total is $30.7 million for work expected to take two years. The estimated total project cost is $44 million. NYDEC is committing $15.4 million as the non-federal sponsor. These investments will upgrade the revetment, reduce shoreline erosion, and maintain the cultural and historical significance associated with the lighthouse. The Montauk Historical Society owns the land and will maintain the site after work is complete.
The lighthouse, commissioned by George Washington in 1796, originally sat 300 feet from the edge of the bluff. Over the years, erosion has taken its toll. Today, just 70 feet separate the lighthouse from the Atlantic Ocean and only an aging revetment keeps it from being lost to the sea. The lighthouse complex also includes a museum, lighthouse tower and keeper’s house, fire control tower and garage. The museum will be open to the public during construction.
In 1996, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred ownership of the site to the Montauk Historical Society, which maintains the property. The Society, dedicated to the protection, preservation, and educational development of the lighthouse, has maintained the revetment since the early 1990s.