The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded the bid to install a series of geotextile sandbags along Montauk’s downtown oceanfront to H & L Construction for $8.41 million.
The acceptance of the bid, awarded Friday, March 20, would pave the way for work to begin later this month, announced Congressman Lee Zeldin on Sunday.
The project involves placing thousands of geotextile tubes filled with sand, each weighing 1.7 tons, along 3,100 linear feet of beach from the Atlantic Terrace Motel to Emery Street. The revetment would be 50 feet wide.
It is billed as an emergency componant of the long-languishing Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, among several projects along the South Shore slated to be completed before the study is finished, due to damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy.
The so-called FIMP Study began in 1960, but is expected to be completed this year.
Originally, East Hampton had expected the Army Corps to complete $20 milion to $25 million in emergency oceanfront work post-Sandy, but after months of public discord, the project was scaled back to $6 million last spring, and then slightly boosted in August of last year.
The project had been expected to begin this January and be completed by Memorial Day, but due to winter storms and numerous details concerning access to private property and the town’s responsibility for drainage at road ends, it now will likely need to be completed in two parts this spring and again this fall.
“Originally, this project was slated for completion before Memorial Day of 2015, before one delay after another continued to push this project back,” said Mr. Zeldin in Sunday’s news release. “This project is essential to the East End and I will continue to monitor the progress of this project to make sure it is completed.”
But environmentalists aren’t convinced the sandbags are the best solution for Montauk’s waterfront.
On Monday, former Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, who has spearheaded a new water protection group called “Defend H2O,” announced his group had filed suit March 20 against the Army Corps, East Hampton Town, Suffolk County and the state DEC for granting permits for the project to continue.
“The result of this shoreline hardening project is the inevitible loss of a coveted recreational beach,” they said in a press release announcing their lawsuit.
The lawsuit is an Article 78 proceeding filed in New York State Supreme Court.
“The assertion by some officials that the geotextile sandbags are not shoreline hardening, will have no adverse impacts to the beach and are deemed a temporary action in the context of the prescribed plan is scientifically indefensible,” said Mr. McAllister. “Although officials were fully informed, they made a conscious decision to sacrifice a public beach in favor of private property interests.”
Mr. McAllister announced the suit along with Mike Bottini, a member of Defend H2O who also serves as chair of the Eastern Long Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, which also opposes the project.
“If implemented, this project sets a terrible precedent for the Town of East Hampton, whose economy is largely driven by its natural beaches,” said Mr. Bottini.
Their principal arguement is that the project conflicts with the policy of the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which prohibits hard erosion control structures on oceanfront beaches.
Concerned Citizens of Montauk Executive Director Jeremy Samuelson also had harsh words for the project when he appeared before the town board to discuss the project March 19.
“This project is not shovel-ready,” he said. “There’s a limited window contractor would have to work with in the spring and there’s a long list of items unaddressed or unanswered.”
Mr. Samuselson said the town has not yet addressed the “huge volume of stormwater, which needs a place to go.”
He added that a repaving project is slated to be done downtown the same time that trucks are going to be staging on nearby roads to begin work this spring.
“We essentlaiy have these two projects on a collision course,” he said.
Elected officials who represent East Hampton sounded a different tune.
“The Downtown Montauk Project is essential from both the perspective of public safety and the local economy,” said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele. “Hopefully, this will be a first step toward protecting Montauk. I look forward to additional measures as the larger Fire Island to Montauk project proceeds in the coming months.”
“The emergency beach stabilization project is a critical first step in protecting downtown Montauk and our local economy short term,” agreed East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell. “The Fire Island to Montauk Point Plan must follow quickly to provide the long term protection necessary for Montauk.”