Twenty-four million in New York State and federal funding is slated for a revetment project to strengthen the rocky shoreline of the Montauk Point Lighthouse — teetering 100 feet away from the ocean — against coastal erosion.
A deteriorating stonework revetment has long been the only thing preventing the lighthouse from falling into the Atlantic Ocean, but stabilizing stonework reconstructing the banks surrounding the property is planned to fortify the structure this December.
The project, which is nearing the completion of its design and engineering phase, will be overseen by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. It is expected to take up to 18 months to complete.
The project was made possible through a series of agreements hammered out between the Army Corps, which oversees coastal erosion projects, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the lead state agency on environmental projects on state-owned property, and the Montauk Historical Society, which operates the lighthouse.
Legislation penned by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016 cleared the way for the DEC to move forward with the project, and others to protect national historic landmarks. Previously, the DEC was barred from undertaking projects at locations not owned and operated by the state.
Funding for the project will be split 65/35 between the federal government and state.
The Montauk Point Lighthouse is the first lighthouse ever built in New York and is designated a National Historic Landmark that is listed on both the federal and state registers of historic places.
When it was first commissioned by founding father George Washington in 1796, it was about 300 feet away from the receding bluff.
The revetment project will provide protection for the various cultural resources associated with the lighthouse complex — including the Lighthouse Tower and Keeper’s House, the fire control tower, the Garage, which was an earlier Keeper’s House, and archaeological sites — and will stabilize the area as a tourist attraction, officials said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement on April 24.
“Generations of visitors have experienced the culture and beauty of Montauk Point, and New York is committed to ensuring this historic landmark remains a sought-after attraction on Long Island for decades to come,” Governor Cuomo stated in a press release. “This investment provides the resources needed to secure the ocean bank, protect the historic structures at the Montauk Point Lighthouse site, and preserve New York history for future generations of visitors.”
US Senator Chuck Schumer referred to the iconic image of the lighthouse as a “historic touchstone for generations of Long Islanders and the countless visitors who come to the East End to sun, walk, sail, surf fish, and frolic.”
“This federal-and-state funding will preserve this jewel on Long Island’s coastal crown and ensure the continued enjoyment of its beauty and cultural significance for future generations,” he said.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said the project is one of many coastal projects in the state that demonstrates Cuomo’s commitment to shoreline resiliency.
“The new revetment will have level access areas built into it that will allow visitors to walk along the seaward side of the lighthouse safely and will enhance the safety of those fishing from this popular spot. Some of the best Striped Bass fishing on the eastern seaboard is found at Montauk Point,” he said.
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said the lighthouse “shines brighter than ever” as a nautical marker and tourism beacon.
“Its storied history, coupled with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and Block Island Sound, remains a popular destination and complements the recreational opportunities nearby such as hiking, fishing, surfing, or just relaxing and watching the seals sun on the rocks offshore,” she said.
Colonel Thomas Asbery, Army Corps New York District Commander, said the project is of critical importance.
“With the signing of this project partnership agreement, it allows for construction of a new revetment to reduce risk to the historic lighthouse complex,” he said. “Our team has worked towards this momentous project for a very long time, and we look forward to completing construction.”
The United States Coast Guard transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the Montauk Historical Society in 1996. The society is responsible for maintaining the revetment.
Montauk Historical Society Board of Directors Member Greg Donohue said the organization is honored to be a part of the “civilian/government alliance” that has been protecting the lighthouse since 1970.
“We acknowledge the importance of this project for both preserving the history of our national historic landmark, as well as promoting recreation at Montauk State Park for generations to come, and applaud Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer, and all involved in making this important project happen,” he said.