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Board OK with studies that could lead to erosion control taxing district in Montauk

East Hampton Town must foot the bill to replenish dunes after storms, but a tax district could shift the cost to property owners who benefit most from reinforcements of sand. 

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc speaks on the need for erosion control in Montauk. (Credit: Newsday / Vera Chinese)

The East Hampton Town Board expressed support Tuesday for creating a Montauk erosion control taxing district, an issue underscored by a section of artificial dune uncovered by erosion this summer.

A small portion of the 14,000 geotextile sandbags buried by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2016 peeked through the dunes in mid-August, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said Tuesday during a town board work session in Montauk. About a dozen bags, which serve as a means of erosion control, were clearly visible from the shore as of Tuesday afternoon, a time of year when the beach is usually at its widest.

The sandbags were also uncovered following severe March storms and were buried by the town in May at a cost of nearly $1 million. The town is contractually obligated to maintain the artificial dune and will likely have to fund similar replenishments in the future as the number of severe storms increases.

“It just goes to show that the project that was done is inadequate in protecting our beaches, our dune system and our downtown,” said Concerned Citizens of Montauk president Laura Tooman, who also heads the town’s newly formed Montauk Beach Preservation Committee.

The committee has asked the town to pay for a pair of studies totaling $200,000 to outline funding feasibility, district boundaries and conduct an engineering analysis of a potential $15 million to $17 million beach restoration project. The work would be done in conjunction with a $1.2 billion Army Corps plan to bolster the 83 miles of shoreline along Long Island's southeast coast known as the Fire Island to Montauk Point plan, or FIMP.

All five town board members expressed support for the initial studies, whose cost would be covered upfront by a bond and potentially repaid by district taxpayers.

An erosion control district could narrow the number of property owners who pay for sand replenishment to those who benefit most from those projects. The committee’s plan would bridge the gap between the Army Corps project and the total of what advocates say is needed to stabilize the beach.

“We don’t think the beach down there is sustainable in its current state,” Van Scoyoc said, adding the beach is the hamlet's economic engine. “We need to take a very careful and thoughtful approach to how we can maintain a good, usable beach there.”

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