Diggers got to work early Monday morning, beginning the downtown beach sand replenishment project.
The town board allocated a little over $1 million from surplus funds to cover the costs of the project last Thursday. The funding was part of a pot of about $3.5 million in undedicated surplus set aside for beach replenishment last year during the budget process, Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said.
A series of nor’easters walloped the coastline this past winter, exposing geobags filled with sand installed by the US Army Corps of Engineers to make the area less vulnerable to erosion. The town is obligated to replenish the sand by May 15 under its agreement with the Corps.
Van Scoyoc said residents could expect to see heavy construction equipment such as off-road dump trucks, front loaders, and backhoes mobilized and left in staging areas near Kirk Beach.
He could also not be certain of how much sand would be needed to cover the exposed geobags.
“The estimate is in the 30,000 cubic yards range. Whether or not we actually have to use that much remains to be seen,” Van Scoyoc said following the town board meeting.
The geobags were installed as a mitigation measure while the Corps completes its long-awaited Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, which will identify a permanent plan for the 83-mile stretch of coastline. Last month, Corps officials said the final report for the project is expected to be complete in late 2018, with recommendations following in the summer of 2019.
Van Scoyoc said town officials are still trying to get a handle as to why the Corps has not finalized plans. They have been in contact with the offices of Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Lee Zeldin, both of whom are “pressing” for the project, he said.
In the meantime, there have been some preliminary discussions about the creation of an erosion control district similar to that of the Town of Southampton. The district covers about an eight-mile stretch of beach from Townline Road in Sagaponack, west to Southampton.
“The motels take the greatest district benefit, but we understand that maintaining a beach in downtown Montauk is critical to the economy and way of life,” Van Scoyoc said. “It’s a beach town, so we need to make sure that we have a nice wide, sandy beach, particularly in the summer season.”
Van Scoyoc did say he is confident that much of the sand that eroded will come back on shore when the weather changes and the southerly breezes return.
“That’s the cycle in the wintertime, you get erosion and the dunes get stripped out,” he said. “That sand that builds up in the dunes over the summer tends to get washed back out to sea. It’s really only a problem if you have development built within that zone, so again that goes back to our longer-term plans of adapting to that situation.”