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Montauk beach erosion project to begin in October

Equipment and materials will be brought in Oct. 1 before the start of a controversial $8.4 million project to reinforce an eroded ocean beach in Montauk and protect the downtown from flooding.

Work on the Army Corps of Engineers project is expected to begin sometime after Columbus Day weekend and be completed by the end of January despite a pending lawsuit filed by environmentalists.

The plan is to place 14,000 geotextile sandbags -- each weighing 1.7 tons -- along 3,100 feet of beach that has been battered by superstorm Sandy and other damaging weather events. Officials said work would proceed on about 1,000 feet of beach at a time.

Sag Harbor-based Defend H2O and its supporters claim that if exposed by a storm, the sandbags would act as a wall that would worsen erosion.

Others say the buried sandbags would block the flow of storm water to the ocean and cause flooding downtown.

In response to those concerns, the Army Corps of Engineers modified the project to lower the dune at the end of South Edison Street, which will allow water to flow through. A 12-inch-wide drainage tube will also be installed at Lowenstein Court.

East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Deputy Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc met Wednesday at the site to discuss the game plan with construction officials and representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Van Scoyoc said everyone wanted to make sure "we're on the same page" regarding how to proceed. "There were mostly logistical questions," he said.

Cantwell and Van Scoyoc said they want to minimize disruption to everyday life in Montauk but conceded the project poses challenges.

Van Scoyoc said the parking lot for Kirk Park Beach, near Main Street and off Route 27, and the main free public parking lot for the hamlet, will be the project's staging area. He said that some, if not all, of the parking spaces there will be needed for the equipment.

Van Scoyoc said talks are underway to figure out how to keep half of the parking lot open to the public.

"There aren't any anticipated street closures, but there will be some added truck traffic," Cantwell said.

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