The Army Corps has finished a project to widen a vulnerable...

The Army Corps has finished a project to widen a vulnerable stretch of oceanfront beach and dunes in downtown Montauk, seen Friday. Credit: Randee Daddona

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed the first phase of a long-awaited coastal restoration project in downtown Montauk to widen a vulnerable stretch of oceanfront beach — a project that grew in urgency after several winter storms recently battered the coast. 

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corp., the Army Corps’ contractor, dredged about 475,000 cubic yards of offshore sand that was pumped onto the beach on a stretch from Kirk Park Beach to South Edison Beach to widen it, according to East Hampton Town. 

Officials said the contractor completed the dredging work in 20 days.

East Hampton Councilman David Lys said the coordination of multiple bulldozers moving mounds of sand was “like watching dancers on a stage."

“It was a novel project that the town and Montauk had never seen before,” he added. “Residents are amazed by the transformation of the beach and how quickly and effectively it’s been done.”

The $11.25 million federal project was part of the larger Fire Island-to-Montauk Point initiative and followed an earlier stabilization project that began in 2015 as a stopgap.

James D’Ambrosio, public affairs specialist for the Army Corps, said the contractor completed the work ahead of schedule.

"The area now has a wider, more resilient shoreline reducing risk of flooding to residents, businesses and infrastructure from severe storms and tidal surges," he said.

Several hotels along South Emerson Avenue face the growing risk of the ocean creeping closer and closer.

The next phase of work that began last week involved installing sand fencing and beach plugs, Lys said. The beach plugs are grass planted directly into the sand at the face of the dune to help keep sand in place. Additional work will be done to repair vehicular and pedestrian access points, he said, adding the town is waiting for confirmation from the Army Corps for that timeline. 

Mariah Miltier, executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, said the beach nourishment project has been atop the organization’s priority list for over 20 years.

“The completion of this project was not only crucial for the resiliency of our downtown area and community, but also our local businesses,” she said.

Lys said downtown businesses benefited during the typically slow winter months from added traffic. He said people visited Montauk for day trips for a chance to witness the project, as well as the contractors who were working on the project.

Part of the draw was catching a view of the hopper dredge ship, Ellis Island, one of the largest of its kind operating in America, according to the Army Corps.

“People were definitely curious to see the project, which was a great thing,” Miltier said.

Lys said the town's chief lifeguard, marine patrol and East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue will examine the beach to see how the surf zone may have changed.

"We're trying to get in front of that," he said. "We recognize that the conditions have changed in the surf zone."

Periodic beach replenishment will take place every four years for three decades now that the initial project is finished, according to the town.

Town officials in January began discussing both short- and long-term solutions to increase coastal resilience in the face of climate change. The winter storms seriously damaged existing dunes at Ditch Plains Beach, a popular surfing spot east of downtown Montauk.

The completed dredging project did not extend as far as Ditch Plains Beach.

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