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Montauk South Lake Beach Remediation Proposed

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 06:45

A plan to revitalize the southern part of Lake Montauk and the beach at the end of South Lake Drive was presented to the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday.

Stormwater runoff is one culprit blamed for impaired water quality at the beach there, which has traditionally been used by families, particularly those with small children, owing to its tranquil waters. Outdated septic systems in the area and poor tidal flushing are also blamed. 

The Suffolk County Health Department closed South Lake Drive as a public beach in 2005, Mellissa Winslow, a senior environmental analyst in the town's natural resources department, told the board. There is a "strong need for remediation," she said. A project to control and mitigate stormwater runoff was included in the town's water quality improvement plan in 2016, she said, and the town's water quality technical advisory committee recommended that stormwater abatement projects move forward at South Lake Drive. "This is one of our first steps in improving water quality in Lake Montauk."

To make better use of the space, the project aims to capture and treat stormwater runoff by promoting infiltration and natural treatment, and to remove invasive species and restore native habitat, Ms. Winslow said. A conceptual proposal included regrading the parking area to direct runoff toward a pervious swale located at the lowest point of the lot. 

Ian Hanbach of the LaGuardia Design Group, landscape architects, presented maps depicting existing site conditions and a preliminary concept design, for review and comment by the board and the public. At the heart of LaGuardia's design proposal, he said, is a native vegetated bioswale, a rain garden that would slow, filter, and promote percolation of groundwater before it reaches the shoreline. 

A dry stream bed would see a series of dams spanning it to filter and reduce the velocity of stormwater runoff from the parking area and South Lake Drive. They would also serve as weirs during heavy storm surge events. "The idea is to manage stormwater runoff with green infrastructure," Mr. Hanbach said, rather than structures like dry wells. 

Nonnative and invasive species that have outcompeted native plant communities would be removed, he added. A composting toilet, which he said is underused, would also be removed and replaced with native vegetation. The existing comfort station would be reconfigured to be more aesthetically pleasing, and its septic system replaced with an innovative alternative model that dramatically reduces nitrogen and phosphorous leaching. A picnic area shaded with trees would also be added. 

The parking area would be reconfigured, its impervious asphalt reduced in area and replaced with a permeable surface. The proposal includes delineated parking spaces, where none exist at present, and intuitive and efficient traffic circulation. An informational kiosk would offer information on the native plant species and other details about the project. Board members were pleased with the proposal, but surmised that the improved aesthetics would draw more visitors. That would require more parking than envisaged by the designers. 

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