Judge Denies Injunction on Montauk Beach Project

"The court finds that construction on the project has gone far enough that for economic reasons, it would be impractical and wasteful to delay it any further," wrote Judge Arthur D. Spatt of the United States District Court in Islip. Joanne Pilgrim

A federal judge has denied a court request that would have temporarily halted the Army Corps of Engineers’ downtown Montauk project, notably citing what he said was the corps's conclusion that it would "not have a significant impact on the environment." However, a lawsuit by a group of environmental activists will be allowed to move ahead.

In his decisions issued on Monday, Judge Arthur D. Spatt of the United States District Court in Islip rejected a request from Defend H2O and nine individual plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction.

Judge Spatt's ruling was in line with an earlier legal review by a magistrate judge that made Monday's decision expected. It followed an Oct. 1 rejection of a request for a temporary restraining order against the Army Corps work in Montauk.

Judge Spatt wrote that he has received "a number of calls and letters from purported residents of Montauk expressing their opposition to the project" but that he was bound to decide on the injunction according to the evidence presented in court.

Among the points Judge Spatt listed in his discussion of the case was evidence that the project did not conflict with East Hampton policies nor those of New York State or the federal government. He also faulted the group suing the Army Corps for waiting until Oct. 1, the day the project was set to begin, to seek an injunction and for not presenting its objections to the corps while it was preparing its environmental assessment in 2014.

"Based on this undisputed evidence, the court finds that construction on the project has gone far enough that for economic reasons, it would be impractical and wasteful to delay it any further," Judge Spatt wrote.

He agreed with the magistrate judge's review, which said that Defend H2O and the others suing the corps had not demonstrated that the work would harm the Montauk beach. He sided with the corps in its assertion that downtown Montauk was in immediate need of "flood control" measures.

The 14,500 plastic sandbags to be used in the project were "nonstructural," he wrote, and therefore legal.

Carl Irace, an East Hampton attorney who is representing Defend H2O and the other plaintiffs, said in an email on Tuesday, "The bad news is that the judge denied the injunction, but the good news is that the case is still open."