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Funding for Montauk Erosion-Control Could Disappear If Quick Action Not Taken

Army Corps expects final report on possible erosion-control options to be ready in November.

The town hall meeting room was packed on Thursday for the presentation. Credit: Taylor K. Vecsey
The town hall meeting room was packed on Thursday for the presentation. Credit: Taylor K. Vecsey
While the United States Army Corps of Engineers refuted the notion that erosion-control work would begin in downtown Montauk early next year, the message at its presentation to the town board on Thursday was clear: Time is of the essence. 

Earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency allocated $700 million for Hurricane Sandy relief for implementation of the Fire Island to Montauk Point project of the $3.5 billion Congress appropriated for construction projects in the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy. 

But, if all the powers that be can't come to a decision on which method is best for emergency stabilization in downtown Montauk, the federal dollars for the project could go elsewhere, according to Stephen Couch, the chief of the Corps' Coastal Section of the New York District. 

The work in Montauk would not begin in early 2014, despite talk to the contrary, Chris Gardner, a Public Affairs Specialist at the Army Corps' New York District, said in an email. "The reason we're presenting these alternatives to Montauk officials is to provide them information at this early stage as to what alternatives we're analyzing," he explained before the meeting. "Also, we are still analyzing the economics of each alternative."

The Corps is currently preparing a report, including an analysis of the alternatives and cost estimating, which is expected to be completed by November, Couch told the board. 

Sue McCormick said when a draft is available, officials from the Army Corps, the state, the county and the town will discuss the alternatives and a final recommendation will be made. 

Couch's department has set an "aggressive schedule" because of the competition for the funding, he said. "The money could be spent elsewhere," he said, naming New Jersey, Delaware and other places in New York State impacted by Sandy. The project, overall, is on the fast-track, he said. 

Couch presented five potential alternatives for downtown Montauk. 

The first would be placement of roughly 120,000 cubic yards of sand to create a feeder beach that would over time nourish beaches to the west. This was originally part of the overall FIMP proposal before Hurricane Sandy.

The second alternative would require real estate acquisitions and possible condemnations motels along the 5,000 square feet of oceanfront, Couch said. The Corps is looking at constructing a 15-foot high dune and a 90-foot wide beach berm. The initial cost would have to be weighed against the other alternatives' maintenance costs over time, he said. 

Responding to one $25 million figure that Couch mentioned in relation to obtaining the necessary real estate, Legis. Jay Schneiderman, I-Montauk, said the Corps might as well take that option off the table. "You're not going to get much," he sad for that price.

Still, Montauk is in a "serious state of peril," he said. "If we blow this, we have made a terrible mistake," Legis. Jay Schneiderman, I-Montauk, said. His opponent in the upcoming election, current Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi also was in the audience. 

The third alternative would not require real estate, but rather a construction of a 90-foot wide berm. 

The construction of a 15-foot high dune with a seawall, covered by sand features, to reinforce the dune, as well as a 35-foot wide beach berm, is the fourth option. 

The fifth, and final, alternative, is a 15-foot high dune and a 90-foot wide beach berm with groins that taper off to manage sand movement.

"Absent of us acting on this initiative, we will lose this money — it will go somewhere else," Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said. 

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., I-Sag Harbor, agreed. "My level of science is political science and that part I'm pretty certain of," he said. 

For the Corps to move forward with any project in Montauk it must have local support and economic justification. "We can't legally expend federal funds on a project unless it proves to have a positive benefit-to-cost ratio," Gardner said. 

"We don't have a real indication which would be economically justified, yet," Couch said.

Wilkinson did not take any public comment during the meeting on Thursday. 
Carl Irace September 26, 2013 at 04:50 PM
Taylor, thank you for the expeditious reporting on this important topic. Everyone who couldn't make the meeting (or couldn't fit into the standing-room-only Board room) appreciates it.
Gail Simons September 26, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Taylor, I think it was $700 million for the entire Northeast sector of the US, including DE, NJ, NY, CT, RI & MA, not just for Montauk Village... I believe that $100 million would be earmarked for Montauk. Please correct if wrong.
Taylor K. Vecsey (Editor) September 26, 2013 at 06:45 PM
That's correct, Gail. I wasn't as clear as I should have been. The $700 million is for implementation of FIMP. As for how much of that is for downtown Montauk specifically remains to be seen, I believe.
todd September 27, 2013 at 07:05 AM
Whatever option is selected will have an everlasting impact on Montauk and landforms east and west. The community's decision should not be made in haste or under the threat of lost funding. Additionally, the new Town Board rather than the current board should make the final determination since it can be held responsible for the outcome.
Montaukman September 27, 2013 at 10:12 AM
Todd if this was your home or business being threatened with complete destruction you might be looking at this differently.
Deborah Klughers September 27, 2013 at 11:56 AM
You can watch the presentation online at www.ltveh.org . Click the 'Video on Demand' tab, create and account, log in, and there you go!

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