Drainage Conundrums Face Downtown Montauk Beach Stabilization Project

South Edison Beach
Thirty-three acres of upland runoff end up at this road end at South Edison Street in Montauk.

Concerned Citizens of Montauk Executive Director Jeremy Samuelson asked several questions to try to tease out whether this was all theoretical talk or whether there would be some resolution. He and several other environmental groups have long been critical of the project.

“At the moment, we’re on the same timeline as we were previously,” said Mr. Cantwell. “It can be solved at the same time [as the project]. But we need to have the design and funding before October.”

Mr. Cantwell said the town and the Army Corps are still talking over who would fund the drainage improvements.

“You’re probably being highly unrealistic,” said Mr. Samuelson.

“If we don’t press the projects, they’re not getting done,” said Mr. Cantwell. “We won’t give up. The fact that you would like to delay it until spring…”

“That’s not my goal,” said Mr. Samuelson. “My goal is to live in the real world. I think we are getting strung along here…. At what point do we acknowledge that the emperor has no clothes?”

Ira Barocas said that he was in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans when it was flooded, and he thinks the suggestions to deal with the drainage are “just taking dollar bills and dissolving them.”

“I don’t think anybody can afford to engineer that. We’re throwing pebbles at the wind and we’re not necessarily coming up with a solution,” he added.

The board has also been having trouble with the DEC over walkways that would allow the dozen property owners, mostly hotels who have granted the Army Corps use of their property for the geotube systems, to allow their guests to access the beach.

“The DEC is insisting on major construction,” said Mr. Cantwell. “The truth of the matter is it’s essentially 12 to 14 docks — they’re going to look like docks — terminating close to the high water mark. We’re stressing to the DEC that they should be simple systems. We can simply allow people to walk across the dune on footpaths. We may need stairs at some points.”

Mr. Patak said the DEC’s position is based on their regulations that people are not ever allowed to walk on dunes, even if those dunes are engineered by the Army Corps.

“This is in an area where there’s no vegitation today,” said Mr. Cantwell, who added that the pathways would cover just 48 linear feet of the 3,000-linear-foot project. “To me this is a no-brainer.”

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said she found the entire conversation troubling.

“Ira talked about the Ninth Ward and we’re talking about walkways that are big and tall towering [over Montauk],” she said. “This is a hard choice to make. There are a lot of nuances that weren’t there last September.”

Mr. Samuelson added that it’s ironic that those walkways would likely become projectiles that could rip the sandbags to shreds in a major storm.

Ms. Overby said she still supports the project.

“The safety of downtown Montauk is of great concern here,” she said. “We dodged a bullet with Sandy.”

“We’ll figure it out,” said the supervisor.

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Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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