The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is delaying an emergency beach-renourishment project planned for downtown Montauk following erosion from a nor'easter last week.
Work to bury thousands of sandbags to fortify the beach is now likely to begin in February or March instead of January, and probably won't be finished by the time the tourism season starts on Memorial Day, East Hampton Town officials said Wednesday.
Army Corps officials said they are evaluating potential modifications they may have to make after the nor'easter scoured away sand on the vulnerable Montauk beach on Dec. 9 and 10.
East Hampton Town and Army Corps officials said they spoke Wednesday and discussed starting the project later this winter, halting it during the tourism season and then resuming it after Labor Day.
"We're going to be delayed, there's no doubt about that," said Alex Walter, executive assistant to East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell. "But we're still optimistic that we're going to get this project started. Our preference is to get this started in the spring, in a phased approach."
But that strategy introduces some complications, including the question of which part of the beach would be fortified before summer, Walter said.
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who also spoke to Corps officials Wednesday, said damage from the nor'easter could expand the amount of sand necessary for the project by 25 percent. He said he supported halting any work during the summer.
"The economy of Montauk is rooted in the availability of the beaches," he said. "If there's a major construction project going on, it's not going to help the economy."
In August, the Army Corps proposed an $8.9 million project to bury 14,171 geotextile sandbags along 3,100 feet of beach to fortify oceanfront hotels and upland homes against storms. The plan called for pouring 51,000 cubic yards of sand into the bags and another 20,000 on top, to reverse years of chronic erosion and severe damage left by superstorm Sandy in October 2012.
Army Corps spokesman Chris Gardner said Wednesday that the Corps is "conducting surveys of the project area to assess the storm's impacts . . . and subsequently what modifications may be required regarding the project specifications."
Gardner said the Army Corps does "not have a specific timetable at this point" but acknowledged "this does presumably lessen the likelihood for the entire project to be completed before Memorial Day."
Montauk's emergency project is one of two that were started before the $700 million Fire Island to Montauk Point project. The other one is on Fire Island. Both are funded through the federal superstorm Sandy relief bill.