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A Petition for Storm Relief at Ditch Plain

Thu, 01/18/2024 - 10:57
Recent storms have ravaged the dune at Ditch Plain and left a narrow, debris-strewn beach, prompting the Ditch Plains Association to appeal to the town board for emergency mitigation measures.
Carissa Katz

The Ditch Plains Association started a petition at change.org on Monday. Concerned residents of the neighborhood and recreational users “urgently appeal to the East Hampton Town Board to take immediate and decisive action to address the critical loss of the protective dune . . . a consequence of two recent coastal storms.”

Addressed to Supervisor Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and her colleagues on the board as well as to Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Suffolk County Legislator Ann Welker, Senator Chuck Schumer, and State Senator Anthony Palumbo, the petition cites the “emergency situation” that imperils both the residential community and “the appeal of the beach to residents and tourists alike.”

It urges the town “to embark on a comprehensive initiative for sand replenishment and dune restoration to safeguard the future” of the neighborhood and its ocean beach. “The restoration must include” a springtime replanting of vegetation to stabilize the dune, it says.

The petition acknowledges Ditch Plain’s exclusion from the Fire Island to Montauk Point beach renourishment project that began last week on the hamlet’s downtown ocean beach in imploring the board to “work expeditiously with all federal, state, and county officials to rectify this omission.” It urges the board to “explore all sources of public grant funds for this endeavor and consider the establishment of an erosion control district,” a taxing district to raise money to bolster the beach, though not at the expense of “immediate action to address this emergency before the next storm.”

As of yesterday morning, the petition had 1,399 signatures.

Laura Michaels of the association and Kay Tyler of Concerned Citizens of Montauk were among those who called in to the town board’s work session on Tuesday, both describing the conditions in the neighborhood and warning of dire consequences without the action called for in the petition.

“The last three storms have been back to back, leaving us no beach, and it’s only January,” Ms. Tyler said. “The situation is disastrous and unsafe for the public.”

With no protective dune, Ms. Michaels said, the next storm “will end up on Deforest Road.”

“People are really concerned, for really good reason,” Lisa Spellman of the Ditch Plains Association said on Tuesday. “Our first line of defense has basically vanished. So I worry about all the homes now on streets that you never imagined were about to become the first line of defense.”

The association’s members “understand the focus on hotels for sure,” she said of the effort to renourish downtown Montauk’s beach, “but this is a living community, people have their homes here.”

The situation at Ditch Plain was considered at the town board’s work session on Tuesday, as the board assessed recent storm damage and discussed solutions. “I know that without sand at Ditch, we will also then start to lose the neighborhood,” Councilwoman Cate Rogers said, “and that is a trigger we don’t want to get to.”

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