Calling In Coastal Experts

Scientists to help town vet Army Corps plan

       With proposals from the Army Corps of Engineers for a major beach restoration project in downtown Montauk expected shortly, the East Hampton Town Board agreed on Tuesday that three coastal experts who have offered their services gratis to East Hampton Town will be called on for their professional knowledge and guidance.

       Kim Shaw, the town’s director of natural resources, outlined their credentials at a town board meeting.

       Robert S. Young, a licensed professional geologist, is a professor of coastal geology at Western Carolina University and director of the program for study of developed shorelines, a joint venture of Duke University and his university. It specializes in evaluating the design and implementation of coastal engineering projects.

       Henry J. Bokuniewicz, a professor of oceanography at the State University at Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, does coastal zone management research and has been involved in monitoring shoreline changes, beach dynamics, and responses to storms on Long Island ocean beaches.

       Jay Tanski is the coastal processes and facilities specialist at New York Sea Grant, a marine research, education, and outreach program run by the State University of New York and Cornell University that provides technical assistance on coastal processes and hazards. Sea Grant has been coordinating federal and local efforts for immediate and long-term recovery after Hurricane Sandy.

       All three professors had responded to an e-mail sent some months ago to a dozen coastal experts up and down the East Coast asking if they might be interested in advising the town. The inquiries generated “a lot of interest,” said Ms. Shaw.

       “Using their services as you deem necessary or appropriate . . . would be valuable,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell told Ms. Shaw.

       “I would urge that they get involved as soon as possible and develop a dialogue with the Army Corps of Engineers,” Mr. Cantwell said. The experts, he said, could help the town to engage in a “cooperative dialogue with the Army Corps, in reviewing what they’ve proposed, and try to make it better.”

       An initial presentation by the Army Corps of the types of shoreline projects that could be proposed for Montauk included the installation of shore-hardening structures under a dune, restoring the beach with sand alone, and rebuilding the beach and restoring sand dunes after relocating motels built there.

       The possibilities prompted extensive public discussion and concern. A number of community groups and individuals called on the town to seek guidance from coastal experts, but the majority members of the previous town board resisted, placing faith in the Army Corps.

       Ms. Shaw said Tuesday that she may also ask the coastal specialists for help preparing an application for a “very competitive” federal grant for money to retain a coastal expert “to develop a strategy for the town on coastal processes.”

       “Clearly the board is interested in doing a coast-wide review” to examine existing conditions “and how we might adapt, mitigate, and do things that are proactive for the future,” Mr. Cantwell said. The longer-range process, he said, would entail extensive public involvement.

       The Army Corps was to have evaluated each of the potential downtown Montauk projects for cost-efficiency and efficacy, and will return to the town with its offer. Under an emergency provision of a post-Sandy relief package, the work would be paid for entirely with federal money.