The Montauk Lighthouse Revetment Project is Underway
by Sue Giustino
April 22nd marked 51 years since Georgina Reid – with dedication and hard work – started the original project to help the bluff erosion problem at the lighthouse. According to Greg Donahue who will be overseeing the current project with the Army Corps of Engineers, “Georgina was the pioneer for starting the process of protecting the embankment – without her work it would have been hopeless and fallen into the sea.” Along with some volunteers, Greg being one of them, on earth Day in 1970 Georgina- who is not an engineer- realized that without support, the bluff would continue to erode with each storm. She designed and installed wooden boards along the bluff and planted grass for further stabilization; she continued her work for about sixteen years.
Although her efforts were critical in stabilizing the area, more needed to be done to ensure the protection of the bluff and ultimately the lighthouse. Greg explained that it’s been a long road of pushing for support to have a study done by the Army Corps of Engineers. With perseverance, a bit of good fortune, and the support of The Montauk Historical Society [MHS] who stuck with and trusted Greg in this quest, they finally got the present strategy for erosion control.
MHS took the lease for the lighthouse from the Coast Guard in the 80’s [and eventually purchased it in 1996] and knew they had to tackle the erosion control problem. Fundraising was difficult but luckily in 1990 Montauk resident Paul Simon heard about the need for funds and supported a series of Back to the Ranch Concerts. This gave MHS the funds to start the process. With a little more luck Paul Simon ran into Senator Moynihan at an event and reinforced the need for the government to support the project. Moynihan went to DC, got the needed support, and in 1991 the study by the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study and found it to be a worthy project. The 1991 hurricane season proved to be big problem for the erosion at the lighthouse. Hurricane Bob destroyed much of the work that Ms. Reid and her volunteers had done. So, in 1992 and for five years, the MHS in cooperation with NY State Parks and the US Coast Guard the current sea wall was built. It was a ‘maintenance’ project which included the 20ft wide walkway that goes around the front of the lighthouse currently. Greg noted that they knew it wasn’t a ‘fix’ but it needed to be done immediately to save the bluff, and it lasted over 20 years.
After Hurricane Sandy in2012, $60 billion was allocated by the government for shore work, and the Corps of Engineers decided that the Montauk Lighthouse was a worthy project. With the cooperation of the Federal and State Governments $30.7milion will be spent on this new and better design.
Greg told me, “The current plan is a first time ever engineered solution which will keep the lighthouse safe for generations.” With the efforts of the DEC, the Army Corps of Engineers, and director of erosion control for MHS Greg Donahue, this two-year project is finally underway. H&L Contacting for Bay Shore won the bid for the Revetment Restoration project. To rebuild the wall at the face of the bluff, they expect to use about 40,000 tons of rock. MHS will be responsible for the maintenance once the project is complete.
“This was a coming together of a lot of cooperative companies to stabilize the bluff. It’s a future for us all and the spiritual quality that comes from being at the Montauk Point Lighthouse.” Greg mused. “It’s a love story that Georgina Reid started; she never gave up.”