East Hampton Town Board Has No Plans to Stop Army Corps Montauk Beach Project

Montauk Dune Project
Photo: Richard Lewin

The East Hampton Town Board announced in a statement Monday that the town will not work to stop or hinder the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Downtown Montauk Stabilization Project, despite objections from critics of the shore-hardening plan. Supporters say the project is temporary—and necessary.

“In balancing all of the information, the Town Board sees no basis upon which to halt this project and fully supports completion of this interim protective measure until the completion of the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study (FIMP),” the statement reads.

“It can’t be emphasized enough that the current project is an interim protective measure until FIMP can finally be completed and the long-term stabilization solutions can be implemented,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said. “We will do everything in our power to cooperate with our federal, state, and county partners and strongly advocate that the preferred sand-only stabilization project be authorized, funded, and implemented as soon as possible.”

Critics say that by placing 1.7-ton geotextile sandbags along a half-mile stretch of Montauk beach—and by decimating the pre-existing dune—the Army Corps project will accelerate erosion and shrink the public beach.

Kevin McAllister, the founder and president of advocacy nonprofit Defend H2O, said that though the geobags will be covered with sand, it will merely be a sand veneer that will disappear in a storm. While the hardened dune may stay in place, the beach will wash away, becoming lower and narrower until it is mostly underwater and unsuitable for recreation.

“The option here that should have been pursued was a sand-only approach,” he said, suggesting that the dune be re-nourished with compatible sand.

McAllister said that in order to protect private businesses, such as motels, the public beach is being sacrificed. He hopes to obtain a court injunction to stop the work.

A number of protesters have been arrested for standing in the way of excavating equipment on the beach.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said, “The current reinforced dune project should not be looked at as an end product, but rather as a means to an end. In a few years, a wide sandy beach will be constructed in front of the dune. Under this federally funded project, sand will be dredged from off shore and pumped onto the beach. The current project is necessary in the interim period to protect all of downtown Montauk if a major storm strikes. After the beach has been constructed, the current project will not be necessary and can be removed.”

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