After a week that saw nearly daily arrests and protests on the Montauk beachfront over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ work to install geotextile bags along the shore, East Hampton Town representatives and other elected officials have announced that they will not stand in the way of the project.
In a press release issued Monday afternoon, the town board said they see “no basis upon which to halt this project” and they fully support “completion of this interim protective measure until the completion of the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study (FIMP).”
The FIMP study, underway by the Army Corps since 1960, is expected to be completed this winter and is expected to call for a sand solution to Montauk’s erosion issues, which environmentalists and members of the public support as a responsible alternative to shoreline hardening structures such as geotextile tubes and rock walls.
“It can’t be emphasized enough that the current project is an interim protective measure until FIMP can finally be completed and the long-term stabilization solutions can be implemented,” said Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell in the release. “We will do everything in our power to cooperate with our federal, state and county partners and strongly advocate that the preferred sand-only stabilization project be authorized, funded and implemented as soon as possible.”
“The town board is charged with the responsibility of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people of the Town of East Hampton,” agreed Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc. “The town board cannot ignore the specific findings made in the Corps’ environmental review, nor can it ignore the federal court’s rationale in protecting the public’s interest by undertaking this project.”
In a decision in late October to reject a request for an injunction brought by opponents of the project, the court stated that “Long Islanders, including all those who live, work or visit the area sought to be protected by the project, have suffered catastrophic property and personal loss as a result of past hurricanes and other storms.”
The court added that “New York’s latest tragic flooding took place almost three years to the date of this opinion in the form of Hurricane Sandy. It was that event that finally led the federal government to fully fund disaster relief aimed at protecting coastal communities and citizens from future storms…. It is clear that any order delaying the project, for even a short period of time, will put the shoreline in danger, and expose Montauk’s population to unnecessary risk.”
“The calls to cancel this project are well-meaning, but simply not in the interest of public safety,” added Councilman Fred Overton. “We recognize a “sand-only” project is the preferred option, but it was rejected by the Army Corps for this interim project and won’t be an option until FIMP is implemented. We will closely observe and track the construction activity of the contractors to ensure compliance with the significant environmental safeguards built into the project’s design that were developed over the past three years of design and environmental review to ensure the protection of both our coastline and downtown areas.”
State Assemblyman Fred Thiele agreed.
“As I repeatedly stated during all of the public hearings on this proposal, this emergency project was far from perfect,” he said. In fact, I stated it was only marginally better than a sharp stick in the eye. However, after Hurricane Sandy, for those who are entrusted with the public safety, doing nothing was not an option. Leaving downtown Montauk vulnerable for years would have been irresponsible. This interim measure was necessary to provide some protection to downtown Montauk. The Fire Island to Montauk Point project was still several years away. I believe the town made the right decision in allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the emergency project. Moving forward, we need to focus on working with all partners to ensure that, under FIMP, an appropriate long-term coastal erosion management plan and soft-large-scale beach renourishment project are fully realized.”
“The current reinforced dune project should not be looked at as an end product, but rather as a means to an end,” added Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman. “Under this federally funded project, sand will be dredged from offshore and pumped onto the beach. The current project is necessary in the interm period to protect all of downtown Montauk if a major storm strikes. After the beach has been constructed, the current project will not be necessary and should be removed.”