Montauk residents and local legislators have told U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials that the proposed $1.16 billion Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point project is not enough to solve the problems of beach erosion and storm protection in the downtown Montauk area.
The Army Corps held the last of four public hearings — the others were in Islip, Patchogue and Southampton — on the project at the Montauk Playhouse on Wednesday.
Construction on the project, which would fund dredging and shoreline projects along 83 miles of ocean and bay shorelines, is expected to begin in 2018.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, noting a July report from Westhampton Beach-based environmental consulting firm First Coastal Corporation that reviewed the Army Corps’ project recommendations, said the plan to place 120,000 cubic yards of sand once every four years along 3,300 feet of shoreline in downtown Montauk is insufficient.
“The recommendation for 120,000 cubic yards of supplemental sand placement every four years is inadequate protection in light of superstorm Sandy and storm Hermine,” Cantwell said at the meeting. “The current recommendation does not fully consider the extent of potential damages to property and economic impacts. It underestimates both seasonal and long-term erosion, and it fails to fully consider the impacts of sea-level rise.”
First Coastal’s report calls for expanding the work to a “full-scale beach nourishment project.” Under such expansion, an initial placement of 759,000 cubic yards of sand would be distributed over a longer area of 6,000 linear feet of shoreline and add an additional 414,000 cubic yards every four years.
Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who supported the idea of expanding the project under East Hampton Town’s recommendations, said he appreciated the Army Corps’ draft plan but added “it’s simply not adequate when it comes to the protection of downtown Montauk.”
Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association in Montauk, expressed concerns about the quality of sand being used in the downtown project.
Paul Monte, president of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, said that downtown Montauk has a tourist-based economy and that the current plan lacks long-term steps needed to protect the area’s businesses, dunes and beaches.
“If our beach and our dunes are allowed to erode and continue to disappear, then our hamlet, our livelihoods, our homes and our way of life will be gone as well,” he said.
Steve Couch, chief of the Army Corps Hurricane Sandy Planning Division, said the crowd’s comments would be taken into consideration. “This kind of feedback is exactly what we were looking for,” he said.
The project’s public comment period is set to end on Oct. 19.