“It’s important for the town to take action with deliberate speed. The Montauk commercial district is threatened,” Drew Bennett, who chaired the town’s erosion control committee, told East Hampton Town Board members at a work session on Tuesday.
Mr. Bennett’s caution was echoed by Montauk residents and business owners also at the meeting.
After the board’s contentious discussion on April 2 about 11 recommendations issued by his committee, Mr. Bennett said he was on hand to “reiterate the recommendations,” while other speakers urged the board to find unanimity on at least some of the issues and move forward. At the April 2 meeting, the conversation derailed when Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, pressing members to say whether they would accept a possible proposal from the Army Corps of Engineers to “drop rock” on Montauk’s shore, found no immediate accord.
“The board has two matters,” Mr. Bennett said. “We would encourage you to endorse the engineered beach and we would encourage you to endorse some interim action. And we urge you to act on both.”
The town has asked for federal funding, to the tune of $20 million, for beach repairs following the damage from Hurricane Sandy and other storms.
But East Hampton’s chance to receive a piece of the pie could be threatened by a fractious town board, suggested Paul Monte, a Montauk business owner and member of the erosion committee. A lack of direction on erosion control efforts is surely being noticed by Representative Tim Bishop, the town’s point person on obtaining the federal funds, and other officials, he said.
“If we can’t get our act together to give them a comfort level . . . after they jump through hoops and call in political favors . . . then the money will go elsewhere,” Mr. Monte said.
“If the feds say, here’s money, and recommend hard structures, why wouldn’t you take the recommendations?” he said. “It’s ludicrous.”
Board members appear to agree that an “engineered” beach — one reconstructed to specifications designed to withstand storms over a period of time — is called for in Montauk, in the area from Ditch Plain to downtown. Adding sand from offshore would widen the beach both above sea level and below the water line.
If East Hampton is awarded funding, the beach would be created at no local cost by the Army Corps of Engineers, under plans developed in its Fire Island to Montauk Point reformulation study, and future repairs would also be eligible for federal funding.
The plan could include a “reinforced dune core,” as Mr. Bennett described it, with rock or other structures placed beneath the sand dunes on the shoreward side of the beach.
“You guys have fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of East Hampton,” Mr. Monte told the board, and should take “this once in a lifetime opportunity to have the government say, take this money and build a beach.”
The funding status is still uncertain, Mr. Bishop’s spokesman, Oliver Longwell, said Tuesday. But, should the town be included in a federal erosion-control project, “the form the project will take — that’s going to be the result of a process the Army Corps goes through.” With the participation of Mr. Bishop’s office, he said, “the priorities of the local community” would be included. “There’s always collaboration,” he said.
Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc and Councilwoman Sylvia Overby have resisted giving a thumbs-up to any plan the Army Corps might come up with, before seeing the details. But Mr. Van Scoyoc offered to draft a resolution that the board could approve, perhaps unanimously, next week, that indicates its support of an engineered beach.
“And at the same time we will work toward amending the emergency provision,” Mr. Wilkinson said, outlining a way to allow property owners to take temporary measures in the interim.