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A Plan to Rebuild Ditch Plain Dune in Montauk

Thu, 03/07/2024 - 10:46
East Hampton Town officials are developing a plan to restore the dune and beach at Ditch Plain in Montauk following significant damage from three winter storms.
Durell Godfrey

“We are developing a plan” to rebuild the dune and renourish the beach at Ditch Plain in Montauk with an estimated 50,000 cubic yards of sand, East Hampton Town Councilwoman Cate Rogers said at the town board’s meeting on Tuesday. 

Following three storms in December and January that left the beach profile “nonexistent and down to the hard pan,” as Supervisor Kathee Burke-Gonzalez wrote to Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. in January, “the plan is in development now to build a dune system at Ditch Plain,” Ms. Rogers said. “This immediate effort is to gain protection from flooding for the Ditch Plain neighborhood,” she said.

To that end, the beach profile has been mapped, with an amended, more comprehensive version received last Thursday. The town board voted last month to approve a proposal by Henry Bokuniewicz of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences for consulting services for the beach. Dr. Bokuniewicz, with whom Ms. Rogers met last week, 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. The town also retained Robert H. Fox to survey the existing beach profile to determine the quantity of sand needed to restore the beach.

Dr. Bokuniewicz has sent a list of recommendations and questions “stating that first we need to replace the dune system there with sand fencing and an engineered dune,” Ms. Rogers said. “Then we would be looking at sand, snow fencing, and spreading of the sand to build that dune.” The town is now in the procurement process, she said, and a resolution to issue a request for proposals for a coastal engineering firm to develop a plan is to be voted on at the board’s meeting tonight.

“We are seeing accretion” of sand, Ms. Rogers said. “It will be interesting to look at how much accretion will happen before the season. Depending on that accretion, we are also looking at a phase-two beach infill as well, but the first part of the plan is to get that dune system back up and protect the neighborhood.”

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said that a Friday visit to the beaches at Ditch Plain and downtown Montauk included Suffolk County Legislator Ann Welker and representatives from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as Ms. Rogers and other town officials. “It was important to have the folks from the D.E.C. permitting office there,” she said, “because they got to see it firsthand. When the time comes, we’re going to need them to work with us to turn things around pretty quickly. As Cate mentioned, we’re looking at Ditch as potentially a two-phase project with the dune restoration to happen as quickly as possible, and we’ll reassess before Memorial Day to see if we need to have more sand brought in. It’s imperative that that beach is ready as a bathing beach for this season.”

The group also met with Concerned Citizens of Montauk and Leo Daunt of the hamlet’s chamber of commerce, who discussed the importance of Montauk’s contribution to the county and state economy, the supervisor said.

Ms. Rogers and Dr. Bokuniewicz were to make a site visit yesterday “to further develop the plan and go over what he sees in the field as essential to develop that dune system,” Ms. Rogers said.

The Ditch Plain beach and dune remediation project will cost an estimated $3 million to $5 million, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said, “and we’re asking the governor for matching funds for that project. We’re hoping to hear back in the next several weeks” as to state assistance. “Otherwise, we are incorporating the sand project for Ditch in the capital plan which we’ll be discussing next Tuesday.”

The completed plan will be presented to the public at an upcoming work session, Ms. Rogers said. “The community will be fully engaged and aware of the process,” she said.


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