Once More Unto the Beach, Oh Army Corps

The sandbag wall on Montauk’s downtown beach will be repaired and covered with sand by contractors for the Army Corps of Engineers one more time. David E. Rattray

The Army Corps of Engineers will once again make repairs to the 3,100-foot sandbag barrier installed on the downtown Montauk beach before deeming the $8.4 million project finished and handing over responsibility for future upkeep to Suffolk County and East Hampton Town.

Contractors for the Army Corps are set to start work on Monday, according to town officials. They will replace several feet of sand covering the pile of bags, which has been washed away by the surf, and will replace fencing and replant beach grass that was also washed away.

Similar work was done in December and January after damage from winter storms, at a cost of $700,000, but more storms made it necessary to redo the work.

The Army Corps did not and will not replace sand seaward of the sandbag wall, a “berm” that built up the beach when the sandbag wall was installed and was originally to have been maintained by the county and town once the project was handed off. That requirement has since been dropped from a draft operations and maintenance manual that must be approved by the county, town, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation before going into effect.

Since the surf often rises right to the edge of the sandbag wall, maintaining a sand berm in front of that has proven “kind of impossible to do,” Alex Walter, Supervisor Larry Cantwell’s executive assistant, who is coordinating the project, said Tuesday.

The Army Corps has also dropped a requirement that beach grass be maintained on the sandbag dune, though they will be replacing it as part of the upcoming work. If it gets washed out in the future, it will not have to be replaced.

The town and county will, however, be responsible for replacing sand on top of the pile of sandbags. But while a draft agreement called for it to be done as quickly as possible after the sand is washed away, in light of continual damage from regular winter storms that requirement has also been revised; the final agreement is not expected to call for immediate sand replacement but to allow the town to have the work done after the winter season, when beach erosion wanes, for instance, so as to avoid having to do it over and over repeatedly.

In addition, to avoid repeated damage to sand fencing installed to keep people off the piled sandbags, Mr. Walter said, the town will be allowed to remove the fencing during the winter months and to replace it in the spring.