Letter to Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp, USA, Chief of Engineers, United States Army Corps of Engineers

Letter

By:  Hillary Clinton Pete King
Date: Oct. 10, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

Clinton, King Call on Army Corps of Engineers to Expedite Dredging of Jones Inlet

Dredging Project is Critical to Ensuring Boater Safety and Protection of Town of Hempstead's Beaches

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congressman Peter King today called on Lt. General Robert L. Van Antwerp, Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), to expedite the review of a proposal that would allow the USACE to accept funds from New York State which would allow the dredging of Jones Inlet to begin in the upcoming season. The lawmakers stated that while they are still committed to federal funding for this project, approval of this agreement would allow the dredging to be completed by the April 1, 2008 deadline.

"By the Army Corps' own standards this dredging project is long overdue," said Senator Clinton. "There is a very real need to address the dangerous conditions created by the shoaling in Jones Inlet, and the agreement reached by the State of New York will provide the Army Corps with the funding needed to begin the dredging project on schedule. While I am still committed to federal funding for this project, I urge the Army Corps to review and approve the State's agreement so that we can immediately address the Inlet's safety risks and protect the Town of Hempstead's beaches as soon as possible."

"I am pleased that the Corps and the State are very close to an agreement," said Rep. King, "but until the papers are signed, the project cannot begin. We have a very small window of time left if we are going to reach our April 1 deadline, and I urge them to resolve their differences quickly. Jones Inlet has become too dangerous to put this project off another year."

While the FY 2008 Senate Energy and Water funding bill approved earlier this year by the Senate Appropriations committee allocates $3 million for the dredging of Jones Inlet, and the House has already approved $5 million for the project, New York State has also recognized the importance of this project and has appropriated $7.6 million in state funds so that dredging can begin this upcoming season. An agreement was reached that would permit the USACE to accept the State funds so that the project could begin next season and be completed by the April 1, 2008 deadline. However, before the project can begin, the USACE must first review and approve the State funding agreement.

Though the Army Corps recommends dredging Jones Inlet every four to five years, the last maintenance dredging of Jones Inlet was performed in 1995 and now, 12 years later, the inlet 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. The inlet also protects the Town of Hempstead's precious beaches by absorbing the brunt of storms, but has been unable to adequately do so with its diminished depth.

This request marks the continuation of Senator Clinton and Representative King's efforts to alleviate the dangerous conditions present at the Jones Inlet. In addition to their work to move forward with the dredging of the Inlet, earlier this year the lawmakers called on the USACE to work with the Coast Guard to monitor the Inlet so that the best and safest channel could be marked for boaters until the dredging could be performed.

A copy of the Clinton-King letter is below -

October 10, 2007

Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp, USA
Chief of Engineers
United States Army Corps of Engineers
The Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20310

Dear Lt. General Antwerp:

We write in regards to Jones Inlet, a federal navigation channel in Nassau County. As you know, we have written in the past to the Army Corps of Engineers about the shoaling that has occurred in Jones Inlet and the dangerous conditions this presents to commercial and recreational boaters using the Inlet. Additionally, the beach at Point Lookout is in need of nourishment to protect the coast and surrounding homes and community from erosion and storm damage.

The FY 2008 Senate Energy and Water funding bill approved earlier this year by the Senate Appropriations committee allocates $3 million for the dredging of Jones Inlet, and the House has already approved $5 million for the project. We remain committed to federal funding for this project in line with the historic precedence, and will continue to work for the FY08 bill to become law. New York State has also recognized the importance of this project and has appropriated $7.6 million in state funds so that dredging can begin this upcoming season. It is our understanding that an agreement has been reached permitting the Army Corps of Engineers to accept state funds to allow the project to occur this season, but that it presently awaits final approval by Army Corps headquarters.

We write to respectfully urge you to expedite the review and approval of this agreement so that the dredging of Jones Inlet can be completed by the April 1, 2008 deadline. This project is immensely important to the Point Lookout community and the boaters who travel the Inlet. Now that funding has been lined up, a prompt review is necessary to ensure that dredging of the Inlet can be completed this season. This will ensure the safety of this community in the upcoming storm and boating season.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton Peter King