The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scaled back a multimillion-dollar emergency project to protect a vulnerable beach in Montauk from erosion and storms, disappointing local officials and hotel owners.
The Army Corps has proposed a $6 million plan to bury 14,000 sand-filled bags on an eroded stretch of ocean beach in the East End hamlet. It would require about 45,000 cubic yards of sand.
That's less ambitious than some proposals the Army Corps unveiled last year. Those plans covered longer and broader stretches of beach and called for more sand.
The Army Corps downsized the plan because federal officials said it could not significantly overlap with the $700 million Fire Island to Montauk Point project, or FIMP, which is still in the planning phase, according to Stephen Couch, chief of the coastal section of the New York District of the Army Corps.
A FIMP draft calls for elevating 4,400 homes and includes long-term plans to maintain dunes and beaches across the South Shore of Long Island.
East Hampton Town officials had previously hoped the emergency project in Montauk would mirror the long-term recommendations of FIMP. But Couch said the Army Corps learned it was not allowed to presume the outcome of the FIMP study, which is still in progress.
Instead, the Army Corps had to design a short-term project to "bridge the gap" until FIMP is complete, he said.
"Essentially, the rules changed on us here," Couch told the East Hampton town board last Wednesday.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he was concerned that rebuilding the beach in two phases "leaves Montauk vulnerable."
"I've been pressing the Army Corps to do the complete project at one time," he said. "I think that's more cost-effective and will provide the resiliency that the full project would give downtown Montauk."
After superstorm Sandy in October 2012, the federal government agreed to fully fund the emergency flood-protection project in Montauk and another on Fire Island in advance of FIMP.
A row of hotels overlooks the downtown Montauk beach, which wind and waves have scoured away over several years. It sustained severe damage in Sandy. Steve Kalimnios, an owner of the Royal Atlantic Beach Resort Hotel, called the new proposal "pathetic."
"Everyone is completely disappointed in where we are right now," he said. "Not to say we're not grateful for the attention and for something being done, but the reality is it's so small it's a borderline slap in the face."
Kalimnios said he has spent about $2 million dumping sand on the beach in front of his hotel over the past 12 years.
Each of the 14,000 "geotextile" bags would hold about 2.4 tons of sand. They would be stacked about 131/2 feet above sea level with about 3 feet of sand piled on top.
Couch said the plan would offer 15 years of protection, but could require maintenance. The Army Corps said it hopes to begin work by year's end.
Projects associated with FIMP will span 83 miles of shoreline along the South Shore and are expected to begin in late 2015 or early 2016.