Town May Absorb Corps Bill

Forgotten 2002 contract for inlet study is found
Montauk's inlet jetty with the narrow Soundview Drive beach in the background David E. Rattray

East Hampton Town could owe more than $330,000 for a study of the Montauk Inlet by the Army Corps of Engineers — a hefty bill of which town officials were unaware but which recently came to light as part of a lawsuit against the town and the Army Corps. The amount due, under a contract signed in 2002 by former Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, has not been included in town budgets.

The study was to underpin decisions about dredging the Montauk Harbor channel and an erosion-control project to the west of the harbor. A number of alternatives and estimated costs were presented by the Army Corps in 2012, and the town board voted last fall to endorse a plan calling for the Corps to dredge the channel, which has shoaled over the years, to a depth of 17 feet, with approximately 230,000 cubic yards of dredged material to be put on the beach to the west of the inlet.

 The project was estimated several years ago at $26 million, of which the town was to pay about $800,000. But it stalled when residents of Soundview Drive and Captain Kidd’s Path, whereproperties have experienced severe erosion, sued over the impact of the harbor’s jetties.

The $2.6 million contract for pre-project analysis of the project lays out a cost-sharing agreement among the town, the Army Corps, and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Of that, half is to be paid with federal funds and the remaining amount shared between the state and the town on a 70- percent, 30-percent basis.

Based on the estimated study cost, the town’s share could be $336,750, although the agreement allows the town or the state to contribute up to $100,000 of their fee with “in-kind” services. East Hampton was to reimburse the state for initially coming up with the town’s share.

The status of those payments was unclear this week. Larry Cantwell, the East Hampton Town Supervisor, said the bill could represent a “significant unfunded obligation.” He had not reviewed the contract, he said, noting that Len Bernard, the town budget officer, had brought it to his attention.