East Hampton Town Board Mulls Beach Issues

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The beach dominated the discussion at an East Hampton Town Board work session on Tuesday morning, with members debating a proposal to install a land-based radar monitoring system at a Montauk beach, the pros and cons of wood versus metal beach fences and a Fourth of July weekend tally of beachgoers, with an eye toward improving safety.

The board tabled a resolution to enter into an agreement with Rutgers University for a three-year period to provide for a research monitoring station at the town-owned Ditch Plain Beach in Montauk.

The New Jersey university has invited East Hampton to participate in a regional network of “observing systems,” known as Coastal Ocean Dynamic Application Radars (CODARs), which continuously monitor and map the currents and waves on the surface of the ocean. The installation of certain equipment in Montauk, including two antennas, a computer and a set of “transmit and receive units,” would fill a data gap between similar systems in East Moriches and Block Island, according to the resolution.

The data would used by researchers, universities, the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security, among others.

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, a proponent of the plan, said it could aid with search and rescue, as well as tsunami-alert research.

But Councilwoman Theresa Quigley expressed strong reservations centering on the location. She questioned why an estimated 30-foot tall antenna (an illustration of which makes it appear more like 100 feet, she said) would have to be put at one of the town’s lifeguard-protected beaches when it only has five such beaches total. She referred to correspondence that pointed to Ditch Plain’s selection simply because the town was perceived to have less “red tape” than a federal or state body.

Board members on Tuesday also mulled two different types of material for beach fences: the wood that is required by Town Code and the metal that is popping up with greater frequency and is posing certain hazards to swimmers and beachgoers.

The board decided to put together a committee including lifeguards and town Trustees, among others, to consider the issue.

Wood posts, some audience members pointed out, are difficult to plant into hardpan and can snap into dangerous spikes.

Metal, on the other hand, doesn’t break as easily, but can come out of the ground because of storms and erosion, and litter the beach with rusty shards.

Supervisor Bill Wilkinson suggested that the town may want to consider new legislation.

In an effort to improve beach safety, the board announced that it had asked its lifeguards to take a “snapshot” count at 2 p.m. on July 4, 5 and 6 at various beaches in Wainscott, Amagansett, Napeague and Montauk.

Results presented that day showed that hundreds of beachgoers were occupying so-called “red” zones, or those farthest from lifeguard stands, and therefore considered most dangerous.

Mr. Wilkinson noted that with police coverage, for example, there are metrics that can be used to determine adequate coverage for a given area and number of people. He asked the town lifeguards if the lifeguarding world had such a metric too, but the answer was no.

Town officials said analyzing their data could potentially help them determine whether they need more lifeguard protection or even whether they should create a new beach, an idea that has surfaced previously.

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