Montauk Point In Army Corps’ Sights

In case you missed it, the Army Corps is headed back to Montauk in a big way. Work is to begin in late fall on an estimated 18-month project to replace the stone armor at Montauk Point, which the corps says could not withstand a major hurricane in the condition it is in now. Doubts, which have greeted Army Corps plans for a bigger seawall at the Point in the past, are beginning to re-emerge.

According to the Army Corps, without a major redo, the boulder revetment at the Point will be undermined and the bluff above it will erode, threatening the 222-year-old lighthouse. The corps estimates that the work would be completed by the summer of 2020 and cost $24 million.

The last time the lighthouse’s fate was discussed, estimates were that moving it away from the edge would cost $27 million. This is awfully close to the expected cost of the stone seawall, but don’t expect the Army Corps to go down that road. The corps does one thing where the coast is concerned: build things and leave. It is not in the habit of moving historic structures around. A big factor, too, is that the money for Montauk Point is to come from a congressional appropriation made in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; painstakingly dragging the lighthouse hundreds of yards back from the brink might not be covered.

Officials from Albany to Montauk are in a bind. While the fiscally prudent thing to do would be to allow the lighthouse to meet the fate the people who commissioned it in 1795 expected, its status as a state symbol and icon would preclude that.  

For surfers and surfcasters who know and love the Point, the big worry would be unintended effects that could harm their pursuits. The Army Corps says that any impacts would be benign. But, given the corps’ handiwork on the downtown Montauk beach, the project requires nothing less than the most gimlet-eyed scrutiny.