Defend H20 Ends Suit Against Army Corps Over Montauk Beach Project

Montauk Army Corps
An Army Corps contractor building a sandbag seawall along the downtown Montauk ocean shoreline has reached the eastern end of the project's area. David E. Rattray

A group of environmental activists have admitted defeat, making a decision this week to withdraw a lawsuit filed last year against the United States Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to stop an $8.4 million sandbag sea wall project along the ocean in Montauk. Defend H20 said in a statement released Thursday that it believes "litigation had run its course" and that the damage to the beach has already been done.

The group pointed to a December ruling in federal court that denied its request to temporarily halt the Army Corps's downtown Montauk project. The judge cited what he said was the corps's conclusion that the project would not have a significant impact on the environment. His decision followed an Oct. 1 rejection for a temporary restraining order.

Defend H20 and its partners, individuals who joined the suit, said, "Sadly, construction has progressed to a point where the damages to the beach and natural protective features are too far gone."

The organization, led by Kevin McAllister, the former Peconic Baykeeper, said the project pointed to an overall policy problem. "The downtown Montauk shore-hardening project exists because of a failure to implement existing sustainable coastal policy and adhere to the law," its statement said.

The group also alleged that the Army Corps misrepresented facts and that officials disregarded the East Hampton Town code, the Local Water Revitalization Program, and federal and state coastal management laws.

Defend H2O said it remains steadfast in protecting and defending the beaches. "While the damages have been inflicted, the Montauk tragedy serves as a catalyst for having an honest conversation about rising seas, shoreline dynamics, hard structures, pumping beaches and coastal retreat in our region," the group said.