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Revised Army Corps plan calls for bigger, more costly Montauk dunes

Waves from the Atlantic Ocean wash toward a

Waves from the Atlantic Ocean wash toward a dune line in Montauk in a 2012 photo. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A revised plan calling for a more costly and slightly bigger dune line to shelter downtown Montauk from the likes of superstorm Sandy has been released for public comment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps increased the amount of sand it intends to pour into geotextile containers and stack on the beach by nearly 12 percent, to about 51,000 cubic yards, according to the draft report.

Another 20,000 cubic yards will be placed on top of the oversized sandbags -- each 5 1/2 feet long, 3 1/2 feet wide and weighing 1.7 tons -- to protect the wall from the elements.

The revised project has an $8.9 million price tag, up from $6 million, according to the report.

Town of East Hampton officials sought a more elaborate flood-control project, but the Army Corps rejected that request to avoid overlapping with the $700 million Fire Island to Montauk Point project, or FIMP, which is still being evaluated.

The project calls for raising thousands of homes in flood zones on Suffolk's southern coast and creating wetlands to absorb storm surges, among other protections. But securing needed approvals and easements might take all of 2015, officials said.

Because Sandy mauled Montauk's beachfront hotels so badly, the Army Corps advanced its dune project there and a similar one moving forward along Fire Island.

"We'll gladly accept what they are giving us," said Alex Walter, executive assistant to the East Hampton supervisor. "But are we happy about the scope of this particular part of it? No, we need more and hopefully we'll get more with the FIMP process."

The town tried to persuade the Army Corps to undertake a larger project that it said was justified because a study estimates it will cost $236 million to rebuild hotels, condos, houses, roads and parking lots near the beach -- more than double Army Corps calculations.

Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) said he and Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) sought state funding to expand the federal project, but they have yet to hear back from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo or the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Montauk project is being funded by the Sandy relief bill passed by Congress.

East Hampton had hired Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist with First Coastal in Westhampton Beach, to review the Army Corps' analysis. He said the agency accepted about $1.2 million of items he identified, ranging from the amounts hotel owners spend each year to rebuild the dunes to qualifying infrastructure, such as roads, water and power lines, and sanitary systems.The new 3,100-foot-long, 16 1/2-foot-high dune, designed to tie into existing dunes, will be built with 14,171 geotextile containers, according to the Army Corps report.

A 45-foot-wide berm, about 9 1/2 feet high, will be built in front of the dunes.

The Army Corps' plan calls for work to start as soon as Jan. 2 and finish by May 4. But the agency must first evaluate public comments, which are due Sept. 25, obtain all the approvals, and sign a contract with New York State.

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