FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 12, 2007
With The Long Overdue Dredging Of Jones Inlet Not Assured For ‘07, Schumer Calls On Senate Appropriators, Army Corps To Immediately Redirect Uncommitted Funds For Emergency Dredging
Last Dredged in 1995, Shallow Waterway Currently Endangers Boaters, Fishermen, Emergency Responders, and Leaves Point Lookout and the Town of Hempstead’s Beaches Vulnerable to Storm Damage
With Jones Inlet long overdue for dredging, today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Senate Appropriations committee to provide both the necessary funding and the flexibility and discretion to utilize funds on high need projects so that the Army Corp of Engineers can speedily initiate dredging. Schumer also called on the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) to redirect funding in their 2007 budget for the dredging of the inlet. “Jones Inlet jeopardizes the safety of boaters and fishermen while leaving the Town of Hempstead’s beaches vulnerable to severe storm damage. We have a golden opportunity to get Jones Inlet dredged now, if Congress acts fast to grant the Army Corps the funds and flexibility they need to allocate potentially unused funds to high-need Long Island projects like this one,” said Senator Schumer. “Without critical funding and budgetary discretion to move this project forward and dredge the Inlet, the Hempstead community will also continue to be at risk of escalating and imminent threats during this year’s storm season,” he added. While it has historically been dredged on a 2-3 year cycle, Jones Inlet hasn’t been dredged since 1995 and is not slated for dredging this year unless funds are made available. Over the past decade, the waterway has filled with sand, making both the channel perilously shallow and water conditions unpredictable for mariners. A primary concern is also for the safety of thousands of recreational boaters who are either forced to use other water channels or navigate outside Jones Inlet’s designated ones, since the water depth has shifted making the official lanes unsafe.
Senator Schumer today sent letters to the ACOE and the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to take all appropriate action to expedite dredging at Jones Inlet. While this year’s ACOE budget is identical to last year’s, the ACOE has finished, or nearly finished, several projects – leaving funding and resources potentially available to dredge Jones Inlet in 2007. But to access the funds, the ACOE need flexibility and discretion to allocate the next round of funds appropriated to high need projects, like Jones Inlet.
The House and Senate Environment & Water subcommittees are set to offer rules and guidelines for the Fiscal Year 2007 appropriations received under the upcoming Joint Continuing Resolution (CR), which is expected to take effect in February. If Congress allows the ACOE flexibility and discretion in allocating funds under the Joint CR, they will be more able to redirect funds to Jones inlet. But if undue restrictions on allocating funds are placed on them from Congress, the ACOE’s ability to move funds to projects like Jones Inlet may be more limited. “The threat of a shallow Jones Inlet affects commercial boaters, charter and party boats, fishermen, and emergency responders. This critical and long-delayed dredging project will restore safe navigation and direct passage for emergency, commercial, and recreational vessels,” said Senator Schumer. The Inlet also protects the Town of Hempstead’s precious beaches by absorbing the brunt of storms. It is estimated that by dredging Jones Inlet, approximately half-million cubic yards of sand can be deposited back on the hamlet’s three beaches. According to Schumer, the sand nourishment will help reverse the relentless erosion negatively affecting the area, and protect residential and commercial property, local business and its economy, the ecosystem and its habitat and recreational interests. Senator Schumer also noted that the sand drawn from the inlet could replenish nearby Point Lookout which suffers from erosion. Schumer has long been an advocate for comprehensive beach erosion protection and a promoter of navigable channels. He has championed, along with fellow delegation members, funding for the Army Corps’ Fire Island to Montauk Reformulation Study. He also recently worked with the ACOE to reprogram funding to expedite dredging of the East Rockaway Inlet after a barge carrying home heating oil ran aground in November, 2006. Dredging began on January 10th and is scheduled for completion no later than January 26th, thereby ensuring that home heating oil will be available for the rest of the winter. On May 15, 2006, Senator Schumer and Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray made a bipartisan push for funding to dredge Jones Inlet, and for an erosion project at Point Lookout.