The vicious blizzard of January 24, declared the fourth worst snowstorm in the last century, slammed the sea against the high sand dunes of the Army Corps of Engineers project protecting Montauk for 36 hours. The completed dunes, with the sandbag core inside, beat the storm back.
Last week, a lawsuit opposing the project filed by a group of environmentalists and surfers was withdrawn. Defend H2O president Kevin McAllister, who spearheaded the lawsuit, issued a statement. “Sadly, construction has progressed to a point where the damages to the beach and natural protective features are too far gone,” the statement read, noting later, “The damage has already been done.”
Many people who remember what the natural sand dunes looked like back before they got washed away by the sea during the end of the 20th century wonder what the “damage” done actually is. The new dunes look exactly like the old. And they work just as well. Deep down there is a core of sandbags. That’s damage? Within the last five years, the surf had risen over the top of the remains of the old dune twice to begin flooding downtown—and only emergency measures saved the community.
All the protesting, predictions of gloom and doom, the blocking of construction equipment and the lawsuits, well meaning as they might have been, seem to have served no purpose other than to delay what is necessary to avoid catastrophe downtown—without any visible evidence that the new dunes are reinforced.
Meanwhile, a 600-foot-long sand berm bulldozed up on Navy Beach in Montauk to stop Fort Pond Bay from swamping Port Royale on January 24 did its job. As it was just up temporarily and there was no time to get a permit, the town should go easy on Port Royale for not having one. The town should also create a swift path to getting such a permit as storms approach.
The seas are rising.