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Apr 23, 2014 5:12 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Army Corps $6 Million Replenishment Plan For Downtown Montauk Beaches Disappoints

Apr 29, 2014 4:31 PM

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented a $6 million beach replenishment project for downtown Montauk last week, and while it’s one way to shore up the low-lying downtown area, some see it as merely a Band-Aid on a bigger problem.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said on Monday that he would rather see a long-term project put in place than the two-step solution that was proposed.

Many who spoke up after the presentation last Wednesday, April 23, said the project is not comprehensive enough, while others urged the town to take a softer approach and use sand to naturally build up the dune.

According to Steve Couch, chief of the Army Corps coastal section of the New York District, the agency’s recommendation is to build a geotextile reinforced dune and a berm in front of that created dune. The plan would be to place 14,000 geotextile bags, not tubes, in the dune and cover them with at least 3 feet of sand. About 45,000 cubic yards of sand would have to be trucked in.

Mr. Couch said the system would perform and function for at least 15 years. He said there could be roughly $1 million in damage done to buildings and structures within downtown Montauk if no protection is added, and that by implementing this plan they could reduce potential damage by 75 percent.

The project is to be dealt with as its own emergency stabilization project to build up the vulnerable area, meaning that it is not part of the larger Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) Reformulation Study—a long-standing plan to rebuild beaches and provide other protections for communities along the entire south shore of Long Island, which won’t likely be realized until 2016. Mr. Couch said that there was a change made on the federal level to make this a one-shot deal.

The schedule that the Army Corps laid out for the execution of the plan requires a sponsor to be named for the project, whether it be Suffolk County or the Town of East Hampton, by mid-May. Although the federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost of the project, it needs a local sponsor that will have its own set of responsibilities, like the maintenance and inspection of the geotextile system. The Army Corps estimated the maintenance cost at about $60,000 a year.

On Monday, Mr. Cantwell said he has been talking to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Suffolk County Department of Public Works Commissioner Gil Anderson about the possibility that the county would take charge.

“I am currently optimistic that the county will in fact become the sponsor, but I’m waiting to receive that in writing, and we’re also working out the details of what responsibility they’re willing to accept financially,” he said.

By mid-July, if a sponsor is named, the engineers plan on having a final report and studies done and approved by the federal government. And by September a contract would have to be signed by the sponsor agreeing to the conditions. December would likely be the time when construction, which would last six months, could start.

Mr. Cantwell said the town plans to enhance this plan for better protection once a sponsor is selected. He said there’s not enough sand included.

On Wednesday, Montauk businessmen Steve Kalimnios, who owns the company that manages the Royal Atlantic Beach Resort, and Paul Monte, who is general manager of Gurney’s Inn, likewise requested there be more sand than what is proposed.

“At first glance, looking at this presentation, the plans elements could potentially work, but it falls short of anything meaningful,” Mr. Kalimnios said. “On an annual basis for the past 12 years, I’ve spent $2 million in beach nourishment, about $170,000 a year, over 450 feet. I’m not looking for the Corps to wave a magic wand, but … this is not something meaningful for this community. It needs to be larger.”

There were a few that were opposed to using the geotextiles and said they’d rather see a soft solution used by trucking in sand. Mike Bottini, representing the Eastern Long Island Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, said what should be done is a rebuild of the dune back to where the natural dune is.

Montauk resident Chris Poli said Ditch Plains and Culloden beaches should not be overlooked, and that the project should include a feeder beach, which would nourish westerly beaches via littoral drift.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele seemed to sum up the feelings of a lot of business owners and Montauk residents who spoke on Wednesday.

“This project, even in two phases is better than a sharp stick in the eye,” he said. “It provides protection, gets the federal and state government involved in what needs to be done in downtown Montauk. But I share the hope that when we look at FIMPS, we’re working together to come up with a more robust sand renourishment project for Montauk.”

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The shorelines constantly move naturally. Why do people other than the coastal communities have to pay for a temporary fix to fight the inevitable movement of the coastline? The individuals and business owners should pay their own bills for repairs and insurance.
By Baymen87 (135), Lugoff, SC on Apr 24, 14 8:42 AM
The Golden Rule -- she who has the gold makes the rule . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 24, 14 10:12 AM
My tax dollars go to lots of stuff that I don't use. And others' tax dollars go to stuff I use but they don't. It's just a fact of life.
By RtRoth33 (9), Cheshire on Apr 24, 14 10:39 AM