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Ditch Plain Dune Plans Take Shape

Wed, 03/13/2024 - 18:34
Sand and debris left by a December storm littered the former East Deck parking lot at Ditch Plain.
Jane Bimson

Plans are taking shape for a 15-foot dune system to replace that which was lost to winter storms at the beach at Ditch Plain in Montauk.

At an East Hampton Town Board meeting on Tuesday, Councilwoman Cate Rogers said that she had recently walked the beach with Henry Bokuniewicz of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, whom the town has engaged for consulting services for the beach, and Kim Shaw of the town’s Natural Resources Department, “and discussed each area as we went along.”

Ms. Rogers spoke of a 15-foot dune system “to be placed in the area of where the dunes were lost, with sand fencing. There are many details to that project, so that’s just a very general view” with which Dr. Bokuniewicz agreed, she said.

A beach and dune remediation project will cost an estimated $3 million to $5 million. In the town’s draft 2024 capital plan, $1.75 million is allocated toward the project. It is hoped that New York State will provide matching funds. The town issued a request for proposals for coastal engineering services last week. Proposals are due next Thursday.

“We are now going into those fine details” including access to the beach’s three parking lots, Ms. Rogers said, and outreach to adjacent private property owners “to see how they can join in to the dune.”

“We wouldn’t look to see what kind of fill we need in the beach area, that beach area that’s in front of the dunes, until we get much closer to the season and see what comes back,” she said. There has been some accretion of sand at the beach, she said, “but we’re still in that storm season, where even in just the last couple of days we saw, not storm surges, [but] a little bit higher tides, more intense wave action . . . so we’re still keeping our eye out. But we are moving forward with the details of the project.”

Councilman Ian Calder-Piedmonte said that he supports the plan, “but I want to very quickly get to what our plan is going forward in terms of an erosion district, or. . . . You know, we can’t spend $1.7 or $2 million or whatever it is over and over again. Retreat is the answer. It’s pretty clear what the ocean is going to do, or can do.” A long-term plan should be devised “very quickly,” he repeated.

“That’s where we were fortunate to get the $600,000 grant,” Ms. Rogers said, referring to the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils’ award to the town to plan for the sustainable future of Montauk’s downtown, announced in December. The grant is meant to support an effort to develop community consensus around proactive measures to reduce coastal vulnerability and revitalize the area to protect the tourism industry and the town’s economy, and to support a resilient year-round community. The town board must also consider whether to amend the zoning code to allow existing residences in Federal Emergency Management Agency-designated flood zones to be raised without the need to apply for a variance from the zoning

board of appeals, as was preliminarily discussed last month, she said.

Beach renourishment “buys us time,” Councilman David Lys said. More so, “it buys the property owners time to make decisions, either through estate planning, financial planning, building planning for themselves, and to make the right decision.”

Councilman Tom Flight, whose citizen committee assignments include emergency preparedness, said that that committee will hold its initial meeting tomorrow morning. “We’re looking at what are the short-term actions we need to take in emergencies, we’re looking at the mid-term recovery piece, and then we’re looking at the long-term plan for areas such as Ditch Plain and how we see the future there,” he said.


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