The East Hampton Town Board will ask the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with its “enhanced navigation” plan for the dredging and maintenance of the Montauk Harbor inlet. The plan will increase the depth of the inlet to 17 feet and will dig a “deposition basin,” essentially a trench, on the channel’s east side to collect sand that would otherwise allow dangerous shoaling to form. The $26 million fix will cost the town $801,000.
The board chose the plan over a controversial and more expensive alternative that would have stabilized the Soundview community’s chronically eroding beaches just west of the inlet’s stone jetties, using a series of short groins. That plan would have combined the enhanced navigation scenario with the beach stabilization work.
The alternative would seem to have had the added advantage of making Soundview beach an “engineered beach,” in Army Corps parlance, meaning it would be eligible for federal funding should it be damaged by storms. The work would have cost a total of $41 million, the town responsible for $1.5 million, the state, $3.6 million.
The board decided against the more expensive plan in large part because it would require public access to the engineered beach, a requirement Soundview residents have vehemently opposed. As owner of the harbor jetties, the town is already facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by Soundview residents who claim the jetties are the cause of the chronic erosion.
Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson has suggested modifying the recommended plan to include a project the town would carry out, in which sand from the eastern, Gin Beach side of the inlet would be added to material dredged from the inlet in order to provide more sand to rebuild Soundview’s eroded beach.
Councilman Dominick Stanzione has cautioned that by not choosing the plan to stabilize the beach in front of the Soundview community and the homeowners on Captain Kidd’s Path farther west, “we lose our insurance.” Mr. Stanzione said that without the promise of federal funds to rebuild eroded beaches, “we’re back to square one.”
In that regard, Brian Frank of the Town Planning Department said he would ask the Army Corps to determine if Soundview beach, as the recipient of sand dredged from the inlet, could be considered an “engineered beach,” and thus eligible for federal emergency funding in the event of serious storm damage.