Consensus on the East Hampton Town Board over how to address severe erosion in Montauk’s downtown came down to a battle over semantics last week.
A resolution sponsored by Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc signifying support for a federally funded plan to create an engineered beach, should one become available, sparked much debate after Councilwoman Theresa Quigley suggested amending the final sentence to add one word, “attendant,” to read: “Resolved, that the Town of East Hampton respectfully supports federal funding and attendant coastal engineering resources from the Army Corps of engineers for an engineered beach.”
The suggestion caused a drawn out back-and-forth between Town Board members and Town Attorney John Jilnicki over what the word meant. Mr. Van Scoyoc expressed concern the amendment would tie the town to whatever plan the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designs. He said there was consensus on the resolution at a prior meeting and was “disappointed” by Ms. Quigley’s “last minute” amendment. “It’s really curious to me that we had a full agreement on the wording,” he said.
“Clearly this discussion is bringing forth that we don’t have agreement,” said Ms. Quigley.
Ms. Quigley said she felt the resolution more strongly linked federal funding to coastal engineering resources. “In my head, the resolution had read we’re going to seek support from the Army Corps and we’re going to seek support in terms of federal funding,” Ms. Quigley reflected on Monday. “It didn’t say it was going to be connected.”
The resolution does not preclude the Town Board from hiring a private coastal engineer prior to any plan submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers, said Mr. Jilnicki, responding to a question from Ms. Overby. At a recent work session, Jeremy Samuelson, the executive director of Concerned Citizens of Montauk, presented a letter to the Town Board written by the Group for the East End, Citizens for Access Rights, Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, The Nature Conservancy on Long Island, Eastern Long Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and CCOM. The letter urged the Town Board “to follow the example of other coastal communities by immediately seeking the guidance and expertise of a nationally recognized engineering firm with experience in coastal assessment, remediation and the design of engineered beaches.”
It’s unclear exactly whether federal funding would become available for such a project, and if so, when.
“The Army Corps of Engineers is progressing with a plan to implement the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, which would provide both short-term beach nourishment this year and propose a long-term erosion mitigation solution for Downtown Montauk involving an engineered beach,” according to Oliver Longwell, the communications director for U.S. Representative Tim Bishop. “We are not prepared to announce a timeline yet, but Congressman Bishop is advocating strongly for all Sandy recovery work to be performed at 100-percent federal cost. The input of the Town Board, as well as other community stakeholders, is an important part of the process as the Army Corps develops their proposal.
The Town Board’s discussions about Montauk’s erosion problem has focused on short- and long-term solutions. But the most controversial element of the issue is whether to allow compromised Montauk oceanfront property owners to harden their shorelines on a temporary basis in order to safeguard their structures during emergencies. It has been the source of much debate on the Town Board, with Mr. Van Scoyoc and Ms. Overby hesitant to permit hard structures for fear of what effects they would have on neighboring properties, while Mr. Stanzione, Ms. Quigley and Mr. Wilkinson were in support of allowing them on a temporary basis. Moving forward with such a measure would require four votes.
Recently, Mr. Van Scoyoc said he would consider temporary hard structures for shoreline protection “if it’s tied to a sunset” date, and a longer term plan.
Capital Plan Bond Authorizations
The Town Board approved about $2.8 million in bond authorizations for capital projects to pay for new vehicles, a generator for Town Hall, and various equipment and improvements.
The bond authorizations will allow the town to fund a 2013-15 capital budget that the board approved last week. This year’s bond authorizations for capital projects will total about $4.9 million, according to Town Budget Officer Len Bernard. The remaining approximately $2.2 million will be voted on at the May 2 Town Board meeting.
The items approved for bonds include: a $700,000 wood grinder for the Sanitation Department, a $300,000 generator for Town Hall, and $250,000 for the reconstruction of various roads.