A series of fences and sand berms along a former...

A series of fences and sand berms along a former dune line, installed by the owners of the Royal Atlantic Beach Resort in Montauk, April 26, 2014. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Work to bury huge sandbags to reinforce an eroded ocean beach in Montauk is scheduled to begin in October, despite a lawsuit from environmentalists seeking to stop the project, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said.

The $8.4 million emergency plan would place 14,000 "geotextile" sandbags -- each weighing 1.7 tons -- along 3,100 feet of beach that has been scoured by storms in recent years, including superstorm Sandy.

Army Corps officials previously planned to start the project in the spring, halt it during the summer tourist season, and complete it in the fall. A Corps spokesman said Wednesday that agency officials opted to complete the entire project in the fall "in order to avoid multiple mobilizations" of equipment and workers.

The Sag Harbor-based environmental group Defend H2O and supporters filed a lawsuit in March arguing the sandbags, if exposed by a storm, would act as a wall that would worsen erosion. The litigation hasn't been resolved, representatives for the Defend H2O and the Corps said Wednesday.

East Hampton Town officials earlier this month reached agreements with Corps and state Department of Environmental Conservation officials to resolve anticipated drainage problems related to the project, said Alex Walter, executive assistant to East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell.

Critics of the project had raised concerns that the buried sandbags would block the flow of storm water into the ocean, resulting in flooding in downtown Montauk. Walter said the Corps has agreed to lower the dune at the end of South Edison Street to allow water to flow through. He said a 12-inch-wide drainage tube also would be installed at Lowenstein Court.

Defend H2O founder Kevin McAllister continued to criticize the project Wednesday. "It's half-baked," he said of the drainage solution. "The whole project has really gotten pretty complex and impractical."

Walter said he expects the Corps' contractor for the project, H&L Contracting of Bay Shore, to begin work after Columbus Day, Oct. 12, and complete it before Memorial Day weekend.

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