Montauk Inlet Study Expected in 2016

Homeowners have been calling for action for more than 15 years
Federal funding for projects to protect against the effects of future storms like Hurricane Sandy will cover the costs of expediting an Army Corps of Engineers study on dredging the Montauk inlet and rebuilding beaches. David E. Rattray

The Army Corps of Engineers expects to issue a report in early 2016 on a Lake Montauk dredging project that could include rebuilding beaches to the west of the harbor inlet, Ronald Pinzon, the project manager at the Army Corps’ New York District office, said last week.

Mr. Pinzon said his work on the project is moving forward, with several alternatives under evaluation, despite pending litigation by Montauk homeowners against the Army Corps and East Hampton Town over the impact of the inlet jetties on nearby beaches, which have been severely eroded, putting houses in jeopardy.

Homeowners have been calling for action for more than 15 years, Frank DeVito, a Montauk resident who is among them, wrote in a recent email to The Star after a May 15 article that linked a lack of progress on the project to the homeowners’ lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in 2011, he said, well after the Army Corps study of potential projects at Lake Montauk was authorized by Congress in 1996.

The Corps had sought information from town officials on a preferred alternative — whether the project should address channel dredging only, or include coastal storm mitigation, through beach rebuilding, as well. The various options come with different price tags, a portion of which would be paid by the town.

Mr. DeVito said members of the previous town administration had advised the property owners, who came to them looking for help after a devastating storm, to sue the town in order to prompt action.

The town board voted last September to endorse a plan to include beach rebuilding along the West Lake Drive beach west of the inlet, but declined to endorse an option that would include sand placed along the Soundview Drive beaches and the installation of stone groins to protect them, as that would require cooperation from all of the private landowners.

Although his own work is continuing, Mr. Pinzon said that he could not comment on whether the ongoing litigation will affect the new project’s progress. The Army Corps attorney assigned to the matter did not return a call for comment. 

Mr. Pinzon said that regardless of the vote by the town board, his agency’s report will examine “the range of alternatives.”

The report will include a recommended plan, on which public comment will be sought, he said. Once selected, a project plan will be subjected to environmental review and a financial analysis.

As reported on May 15, the cost of the initial analysis will be partially borne by the town according to the terms of a 2002 agreement signed by former Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

The agreement estimates that the town’s share could reach $330,000, which has not been budgeted for. Mr. Pinzon stressed that the study costs, which will be divided among the feds, the state, and the town, have not yet been determined.

However, due to Congressional approval of funding for storm-protection projects after Hurricane Sandy, the agreement was modified last month to state that future costs to expedite and complete the study — provided it results in a beach-replenishment plan — will be borne solely by the federal government.