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Montauk residents fight beach, sand plans

Steve Couch, a Senior Coastal Planner with the

Steve Couch, a Senior Coastal Planner with the Army Corps of Engineers, explains three options to residents of Montauk for the dredging and placement of sand from Lake Montauk Harbor, during a presentation at the Montauk Firehouse in Montauk. (June 21, 2012) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Two elaborate plans to deal with the buildup of sand in the channel to Lake Montauk and the erosion of the beach west of the jetty that protects Montauk Inlet have been put out for public comment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The plans drew immediate criticism from some of the homeowners who live on the shore west of Montauk Inlet, who are already suing the Corps of Engineers and East Hampton Town, alleging they caused the erosion problem by building the jetties that now protect the inlet.

Terry Bienstock, one of the homeowners, said the corps' proposals -- presented on posters spread out Friday at the Montauk firehouse -- had several flaws. There was no guaranteed funding, the private beach created by the homeowners who already trucked in sand would become public, and -- worst of all, he said -- it would take several years to accomplish, while existing homes could be destroyed by erosion in just one bad winter storm.

"The real issue is that this would take six or seven years," he said. "Already a third of the sand we put down has been lost."

Another homeowner, Frank DeVito, said he had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to save his house after the beach washed away. "We're still working on it," he added.

The proposals now open for public comment were based on the Lake Montauk Feasibility Study, which was authorized by Congress in 1991 and expanded to include storm-damage reduction in 2002. It looks at three alternatives, including doing nothing, which would lead to more erosion and the silting-in of Montauk Inlet.

One option, described as "navigation-only," would deepen the existing 12-foot channel to 17 feet and put sand dredged from the inlet on the beach to the west. The other, more elaborate proposal, would also deepen the channel to 17 feet, but involve building three short groins to hold sand, moving 50,000 cubic yards of sand from the west to the east on a five-year cycle.

It would also build a longer beach on the west side of the existing inlet, one that would be 100 to 120 feet long.

Both plans -- which are the ones open to comment -- would be expensive.

The first would cost $4 million -- the federal government would pay $3.2 million and the town $800,000 -- while future maintenance costs over the 50-year life of the project, all paid by the federal government, would bring the total to $25.9 million.

The second alternative would cost $8.9 million -- $7.1 million from the federal government, $1.2 million from the state and $551,000 from the town -- and total costs over 50 years would be $41.2 million.

Now subject to comment and acceptance by the state or town, a final version is to be presented for public review in May 2013, and included in a formal report to Congress in April 2014.

After that, the project would have to be authorized by Congress, funded, designed and sent out for bid and construction, a process which could take two or three years, officials said.

More information on the proposals can be found at a Corps of Engineers website:

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