The completion of a very long, controversial and expensive federal project (in excess of $8 million) to save the beach in downtown Montauk has finally been finished. Amid years of public opposition, environmental concerns, protests, arrests, disagreements, and political infusion, the above-sea-level 15-foot slope has been installed just in time for everyone to enjoy yet another beach-going, sun-seeking, swimming, and surfing summer.
Beginning at South Emery Street and running in an easterly direction, the Army Corp of Engineers installed sand-filled geo-textile bags and tubes along a 3,100-foot-long line along the beach. These bags have been buried under three feet of sand in an effort to prevent storm surges from reaching the downtown business districts that can cause damage to buildings along the shore, including, but certainly not limited to, the many motels that attract numerous visitors and tourists. The area is completely enclosed with fencing, sporting planted beach grass, and is not accessible to the public.
The Town of East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell relayed, “The Downtown Montauk Beach Stabilization Project is part one of two designed to protect not only the beach, but also Montauk’s downtown business district from flooding should a significant storm event occur. Part two is the Fire Island to Montauk Point Project, the preferred sand only solution that provides a further level of protection for downtown Montauk. We hope that details from the Army Corps of Engineers will be available in the near future.”
Opponents of the project believe accelerated erosion along this beach will eventually prove this effort to be in vain, while town officials hope the optimum effort to simply add more sand to the beach will eventually prevail.
How does this affect downtown Montauk beachgoers public access? Well, both a gravel road and concrete road access will provide vehicle access, along with wooden pedestrian walkways over the fenced-off area. Private walkways for oceanfront property owners who agreed to the easements are also in place.
Displacement of necessary lifeguard stations and public restrooms is also being addressed to ensure continued safety and convenience for all beachgoers.
Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers has provided the town with a stockpile of 460 cubic yards of the quarried sand that is to be used to plug the vehicular access along South Edison prior to an impending storm, and which sand will eventually be removed once the storm has passed.
Although this latest measure is only a first step in what appears to be the right direction, more protective measures will be addressed upon the completion of the on-going Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformation Study as indicated by Cantwell, however until then the beach is opened, and hopefully no fierce storms will hit our shores this season, and on-going beach erosion will decrease.