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Sand Infusion at Storm-Ravaged Montauk Beaches

Thu, 06/24/2021 - 19:44
The beach profile at Ditch Plain is "extremely low, and for the most part there's no sand covering boulders and debris in the hard pan," Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc told the town board.
Jane Bimson

The East Hampton Town Board approved the immediate addition of sand to the ocean beaches at Ditch Plain in Montauk as well as to the hamlet's downtown beach last Thursday, following a Memorial Day weekend northeaster that rendered the former beach unsafe and partially exposed geotextile bags installed to stabilize the downtown beach several years ago. 

The beach profile at Ditch Plain is "extremely low, and for the most part there's no sand covering boulders and debris in the hard pan," Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc told his colleagues at the town board's meeting on June 15. "It's exposed over a majority of that shoreline." Lifeguard stands could not be set due to the condition of the beach, so it has not been open yet this year. 

Survey work was underway last week in order to estimate the necessary quantity of sand to be placed at Ditch Plain. A resolution passed last Thursday allows for a total of 15,000 cubic yards, collectively, for Ditch Plain and the downtown beach. "In 2013, it was 3,500 cubic yards after Sandy, when the beach was in a similar condition," Mr. Van Scoyoc said of Ditch Plain. "I think upwards of 3,500 cubic yards may be necessary."

The town has a multiyear permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation allowing for placement of sand across 600 linear feet above the mean high-water mark. The stabilization projects will comply with town code and the state's waterfront revitalization plan, Mr. Van Scoyoc said.

The exposed hard pan will be covered with white beach sand in the designated area, according to a statement issued from Town Hall on Tuesday, with work to begin on Monday and continue through Wednesday. The beach will be closed during the restoration work. 

The town and Suffolk County are jointly responsible for an annual sand replenishment at the downtown beach prior to the summer season, and that project -- which called for 17,000 cubic yards of sand at a cost of $767,000 -- was completed just last month. 

The town agreed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 to what was seen as an interim step prior to implementation of the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Project. The larger effort was to begin in Montauk this fall. However, the federal Army Corps of Engineers has delayed the easternmost portion of it to 2023, after repeated assurances that Montauk would be the first to be addressed in the plan to provide hurricane protection and beach erosion control along five reaches of the South Shore of Long Island, spanning approximately 83 miles of eroded and storm-battered shoreline. 

In Montauk, it calls for the pumping of 450,000 cubic yards of ocean-dredged sand across 6,000 linear feet of ocean beach at Montauk?s downtown, where motels and resorts lining the dune are vulnerable to extreme weather and sea level rise. Town officials are lobbying the Army Corps to move the project to 2022.  

Mr. Van Scoyoc said, "We know a small portion of the bags have become exposed" subsequent to the annual spring replenishment of sand. "We estimate something about 2,000 cubic yards," the supervisor said of the need for sand at the downtown beach. 

Weather permitting, work between South Edison and South Emery Streets was to begin yesterday and continue through tomorrow. That stretch of beach will be closed while the work proceeds. Lifeguarded beaches outside the work zone, at Kirk Park Beach and east of South Edison Street, will be open. 

Lifeguards and Marine Patrol officers are stationed at the downtown beach overpasses to inform the public of the closed area and direct them to usable beach, as well as to coordinate safe passage onto the beach east of South Edison Street. 

Len Bernard, the town's budget officer, agreed that the projects should be funded with surplus money, Mr. Van Scoyoc said. "This is exactly what surplus is for, and why we've tried to maintain high funds in our surplus, because there are these unforeseen expenses that come up from time to time. I think it's really important to try to get the beach back in shape before the Fourth of July weekend."

In a related development, the town board voted last Thursday to reduce the daily parking fee at Kirk Park Beach from $50 to $35.


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