Members of the Eastern Long Island chapter of the Surfrider Foundation staged a protest of the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to construct an artificial dune on the publicly owned beach in downtown Montauk on Thursday, October 9.
The proposed work includes placing 14,000 sand bags—each weighing 1.7 tons—along 3,100 feet of the ocean intertidal zone seaward of the existing motels and seaward of the natural primary dune line in that area. The bags will be covered with a layer of sand and planted with beachgrass, a cosmetic touch that coastal geologist Dr. Robert Young describes as “the lipstick on the pig.”
In a press release, the foundation charged that the Army Corps’ proposal flies in the face of the advice offered by three well known and respected coastal geologists who have reviewed the situation in downtown Montauk: Dr. Young, Dr. Stephen Leatherman, and Dr. Orrin Plikey. All three have stated that sand-filled geotextile bags mimic bulkheads and other hard structures in terms of their impact on beaches.
The Army Corps’ proposal prioritizes the value and protection of privately owned commercial structures over that of the public beach, the group said in a release. “Surfrider Foundation’s position is that the public beach is the East End’s greatest asset and its long term protection warrants top priority. Reflected wave energy from the geotextile bags will quickly erode the public beach.”
The foundation also said that the motels on the beach were constructed many years ago on top of the existing primary dune, destroying that natural resource. “This proposal will compound the mistakes made in the 1960s and 1970s: it will result in the destruction of the beach in addition to the already destroyed primary dune,” the group’s release stated.