East Hampton analysis pushes Army Corps for more beach stabilization funds

East Hampton Town is using its own economic analysis of downtown Montauk as ammunition in officials' latest effort to persuade the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to scale up a project meant to protect the area from storm surges and erosion.

The town said in a letter to the corps last week that new figures pertaining to the value of structures and infrastructure along 3,100 feet of ocean beach in Montauk justify a more ambitious project than the $6 million plan the corps proposed in April.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said May 29 in a letter to the corps that the town's economic analysis "supports a substantially larger beach stabilization project" and he hopes it will "result in a major expansion in the volume of sand for the project."

A town-commissioned analysis found that it would cost $236 million to rebuild the hotels, condos, houses, roads, parking lots and other structures near the beach. An Army Corps-commissioned analysis put their value at $103.8 million.

Part of that disparity is due to the fact that URS Corp., which performed the corps' analysis, calculated the current value of structures in downtown Montauk, while First Coastal Corp., which performed the town's analysis, calculated the cost of rebuilding the structures.

First Coastal, based in Westhampton Beach, also determined that there was 411,154 square feet of development along the beach, while URS came in at 338,300 square feet. A URS spokeswoman declined to comment.

The Army Corps in April unveiled the $6 million plan to bury 14,000 sand-filled bags on the beach using 45,000 cubic yards of sand. The scale of the project disappointed town officials and hotel owners, who said it wouldn't offer adequate protection.

Erosion has scoured away the beach over several years, and superstorm Sandy caused severe damage there.

Christopher Gardner, an Army Corps spokesman, said the town's analysis will play into continuing discussions between the corps and the town.

The effort is one of two emergency projects the federal government is funding in advance of the broader Fire Island to Montauk Point project, or FIMP. It will span 83 miles on the South Shore and is expected to begin in late 2015 or early 2016.

Cantwell said last week that he was disappointed the Army Corps plans to protect downtown Montauk in two phases -- first with the emergency project and later with a more extensive FIMP project -- and urged the corps to complete the project in one phase.

Gardner, the Army Corps spokesman, said, "We are committed to working with local officials to implement an interim risk management project, within our legal authorities, to help reduce risks to downtown Montauk as soon as feasible, while also working toward the implementation of the recommendation of the larger, ongoing FIMP study."

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