Local elected officials need to find long-term solutions to help protect Long Island’s coastal communities from beach erosion, an environmental advocate said Saturday.
Mastic Beach, the Dune Road area in Westhampton and downtown Montauk will be some of the hardest-hit areas by rising sea levels and climate change, and authorities must take steps to protect them, even if those decisions are politically unpopular.
That’s what Kevin McAllister, founder and president of Sag Harbor-based environmental group Defend H20, told residents and environmental groups at the South Fork Natural History Museum & Nature Center in Bridgehampton.
Local officials need to “break that shackle” of making safe political moves and “start making [long-term] decisions about Dune Road and downtown Montauk and Mastic Beach,” McAllister said.
One proposed project that may not be taking a longer-term view is the $1.16 billion Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point project, said McAllister, a longtime consultant on coastal management.
The project, which would fund dredging and shoreline projects along 83 miles of ocean and bay shorelines, is expected to begin in 2018.
McAllister has spoken at several town meetings in Montauk and Southampton regarding the controversial project, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is handling.
At a public hearing earlier this month, Montauk residents and local legislators told Army Corps officials that the proposed project is not enough to solve the problems of beach erosion and storm protection in the downtown Montauk area.
McAllister said he was not impressed with how the Army Corps conducted similar projects in South Florida.
“This is just another job for them and then they cut and run,” he said, “We have to invest in a proper approach.”
McAllister said that instead of dredging, removing some of the seasonal hotels near the shoreline and bringing in native beach sand would be a better long-term solution to restoring the beach area’s natural systems and protecting Montauk’s downtown area from further erosion.
The Army Corps wasn’t immediately available for comment. Sara Davison, executive director of the Wainscott-based environmental nonprofit Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation, said more information needs to be available for the public on what coastal erosion means for their communities.
Annie Hall, the foundation’s vice president, echoed McAllister’s push for thinking about the future: “Long-term problems need long-term solutions.”