An engineered beach, a government-backed land buyout plan and an erosion control tax district are just some suggestions the East Hampton Town’s Coastal Erosion Committee is recommending the Town Board implement to help protect Montauk from the next big storm.
Drew Bennett, a local engineer and the chairman of the group, presented a list of 11 recommendations to the East Hampton Town Board at its work session on Monday. At the end of a lengthy discussion, board members voted unanimously to accept the list and to allow town staff to come back with more specific recommendations based on it. The committee’s list includes broad ideas of short-term and long-term solutions to protect against future erosion in downtown Montauk.
The group is recommending that the town protect the Montauk Commercial District and Ditch Plains with an engineered beach that would span 2.3 miles and be comprised of 1 million cubic yards of sand. The group wants the town to seek federal funds to help implement the engineered beach. If federal funds are out of the question in creating an engineered beach within a reasonable period of time, the town should look into creating an erosion control tax district or alternative funding source for the massive beach renourishment project, according to the list of recommendations.
The group also wants the town to explore a “credible and practical buyout plan” with New York State and the federal government for property owners “in peril and willing to sell.” The town should also encourage property owners to implement flood protection measures to a “practicable” extent.
A new Coastal Erosion Overlay Zone, proposed as “Zone 5,” should be created for the Montauk Commercial District and Ditch Plains “to permit implementation of the committee’s strategy without variances,” the recommendations note. Also, the Town Board should consider allowing property owners in that zone to have the right to protect their property through the interim use of “buried rocks, bin blocks, and a more comprehensive use of geotubes in developed areas.”
“These actions should be tied specifically to protecting foundations and would deploy in close proximity to a foundation,” the recommendations stated.
In the meantime, the committee wants the board to shore up the beach with a renourishment project that would require no less than 50,000 cubic yards of sand. The town should also begin the process of obtaining a 10-year maintenance permits for beach scraping and beach fencing from the state.
Finally, the committee recommended that civic organizations implement erosion control activities at key cuts in the dunes. The group also recommended the town revisit its Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan periodically to amend it if necessary.
The committee consists of environmentalists, business owners and Town Board liaisons Theresa Quigley and Peter Van Scoyoc.
Mr. Van Scoyoc thanked the group for its work, and said there was general consensus on the list of recommendations. Ms. Quigley originally came up with the idea for the committee shortly after Hurricane Sandy.
Town Board members went into detailed discussion on the options. While the Town Board accepted the recommendations unanimously, Councilman Dominick Stanzione and Supervisor Bill Wilkinson expressed concern that the measures didn’t go far enough to address emergency situations. If an oceanfront business’s foundation is threatened by a storm in the middle of the night, “what do you do?” Mr. Wilkinson asked.
Applause broke out after the Town Board voted to accept the recommendations—a symbol of how rare board-wide consensus on a serious issue has become on the East Hampton Town Board lately.
“Great job, to get unanimity out of this board,” Ms. Quigley said.