Surfrider Opposes Montauk Sandbags

Members of the Surfrider Foundation opposed to the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to build a sand dune reinforced with sand-filled geotextile bags on the Montauk beach gathered there last Thursday in protest, holding signs saying “Don’t Bag Our Beach.”

In a press release, the Eastern Long Island Chapter of Surfrider Foundation said that the Army Corps plan is counter to advice from three respected coastal geologists who have reviewed the downtown Montauk conditions. They include Stephen Leatherman and Orrin Pilkey, who presented their findings in Montauk last year, and Robert Young. The geologists, the Surfrider Foundation said, have stated that sand-filled geotextile bags would have the same effect on beaches as hard structures such as bulkheads, and would accelerate beach scouring and erosion.

The plan is envisioned as an interim “emergency” measure to slow the effects of erosion until a more extensive beach-rebuilding project the Army Corps is planning under its Fire Island to Montauk Point study. According to the press release, the Army Corps proposal “prioritizes the value and protection of privately owned commercial structures over that of the public beach.”

The foundation says that the motels along the downtown beach “were constructed many years ago on top of the existing primary dune, destroying that precious natural resource,” and asserts that the proposed dune will “result in the destruction of the beach” and compound the earlier mistakes.

The $8.9 million Army Corps project would be paid for with federal money under a post-Hurricane Sandy emergency appropriation. In an analysis of options for the Montauk beach, the Army Corps determined that a “soft solution,” or placing sand only on the beach, was not feasible under the agency’s cost-effectiveness formulas.