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Thiele and Palumbo Seek Money for Storm Damage

Thu, 02/08/2024 - 12:01
Waves battered the beach at Ditch Plain in January, leaving the area “at grave risk of catastrophic harm from future storms,” in the words of Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.
John Musnicki, @musnincki_photography

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Anthony Palumbo have issued a formal request to Gov. Kathy Hochul on behalf of East Hampton Town, following Supervisor Kathee Burke-Gonzalez’s appeal to the state representatives for money to pay for restoration of the ocean beaches at Ditch Plain and the downtown area in Montauk.

Town officials are urgently seeking funding to mitigate the effects of three storms in December and January that damaged both beaches, particularly at Ditch Plain, where the beach “profile” is “nonexistent and down to the hard pan,” Ms. Burke-Gonzalez had written to Mr. Thiele on Jan. 26. “There have been dune breaches, flooding, and damage to homes and infrastructure.”

The town, she wrote, seeks financial assistance for beach renourishment under the state’s Environmental Conservation Law. “The primary objective of this request is to protect the neighborhood from flooding and to restore the beach and dunes for the 2024 summer season,” according to a statement issued from the supervisor’s office on Tuesday.

The areas are “at grave risk of catastrophic harm from future storms,” Mr. Thiele and Mr. Palumbo wrote to the governor on Monday. “We are only halfway through the current winter season.”

They noted that Montauk’s downtown beach is part of the Fire Island to Montauk Point reformulation project, known as FIMP, which is in progress. (That work is covered separately in this issue.) But “it is imperative that the needed repairs necessitated by the impacts of the recent storms be incorporated into the currently approved work plan for this project” as outlined in Ms. Burke-Gonzalez’s letter, they wrote.

The damage from these storms has been surveyed and reviewed by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, they wrote. “The inclusion of these additions is imperative to ensure the ultimate success of this shoreline protection project.”

They also noted that Ditch Plain is not included in the FIMP project. “Repeated requests to the United States Army Corps of Engineers to include this area in FIMP have been rejected as not meeting federal criteria,” they wrote. Regardless, “the Ditch Plains area faces imminent danger from any future coastal storm.”

On Tuesday, the town board passed a resolution to approve a proposal by Henry Bokuniewicz of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences for consulting services for the beach at Ditch Plain. Dr. Bokuniewicz is an internationally recognized expert on beach erosion, dredging, coastal groundwater issues, and pollution in the coastal ocean, according to a biography on the university’s website. He is to be paid up to $14,080.

The town has also retained Robert H. Fox to survey the existing beach to determine the quantity of sand needed to restore it.

The town, Mr. Thiele and Mr. Palumbo wrote to the governor, “is currently evaluating implementing its own project at Ditch Plains to augment the federal efforts at shoreline protection at Montauk. The town will shortly be producing a plan to address immediate and short-term needs at Ditch Plains. The town would seek to work with the contractor undertaking the federal project to greatly reduce mobilization costs.”

Citing “an unexpected and substantial cost for the town to undertake,” they asked “that the state participate in this project with the town on a 50/50 matching basis, perhaps from funds available from the State Environmental Protection Fund or another state funding source.”

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