August 07 2016

Addressing the Issues Facing Eastern Long Island

by Nancy Eiring

Last year, the Surfrider Foundation held the first Two Coasts: One Ocean event in Montauk raising vital support for our national mission to protect our ocean, waves and beaches. Montauk is home to our Eastern Long Island chapter who has been very active in addressing two key coastal issues facing the area: water pollution and coastal erosion. Since last year, the chapter has gained momentum to address these challenging issues and on August 13, 2016 Surfrider hosted the second annual Two Coasts: One Ocean in Montauk with an outpouring of support from the community. Read the 2016 event report here!

The Eastern Long Island chapter started off 2016 with a healthy turnover of leadership within the chapter while keeping many of the decades long activists engaged on these keys issues, a sign of a healthy and growing chapter. Critical community engagement continues to increase.

Clean Water

Sadly, Eastern Long Island is facing water pollution issues resulting from excessive dirty water running off the land and insufficient septic systems. This has resulted in warnings and closures of some swimming areas.

In response, Surfrider’s Eastern Long Island Chapter has been collaborating with the Concerned Citizens of Montauk to test 27 sites in bays, ponds and beaches year-round through our its volunteer-led Blue Water Task Force water quality testing program. The goal of the program is to better understand water pollution issues, alert the public about water pollution to prevent illness and seek solutions to clean up the pollution issues.  

Support through Two Coasts: One Ocean will enable the Eastern Long Island Chapter to maintain our sampling program at sites from Montauk to Water Mill but also expand sampling into the town of Southampton and establish a highly regarded local academic partner, SUNY Stonybrook, for the program. Our work with SUNY Stonybrook will help expand our capacity by running our water testing lab and coordinating an additional lab on their campus.  

Urban stormwater runoff is the number one source of ocean pollution. To help address that, the chapter has been installing Ocean Friendly Gardens that keeps runoff from making its way to the ocean. One garden is under construction is in Amagansett Square, and the other, generously funded by the Walrath Foundation, is in the East Hampton Village Green, where it will collect and filter road runoff before it enters Town and Hook Ponds and ultimately flows into the ocean through the discharge pipe at the beach.

At this year’s Two Coasts: One Ocean Montauk event, we debuted a film by Mikey DeTemple illustrating the water quality issues Eastern Long Island faces and Surfrider’s efforts to address them.

In addition, the Surfrider Foundation has been working with the Surf Lodge to upgrade their septic system to a start of the art system that will elimentate that source of pollution to Fort Pond.

Coastal Preservation

For more than a decade, the Eastern Long Island Chapter has worked to protect East Hampton’s coastline by addressing erosion, poorly planning coastal development and impacts from sea level rise. Several new projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in downtown Montauk and at the Montauk Lighthouse have been approved in response to coastal erosion issues but these projects fail to adequately address the impact of shoreline armoring on the beach, and in fact, have the potential to exacerbate the problem.

Despite opposition from the Eastern Long Island chapter and a very public outcry from the citizens of Montauk, the Army Corps of Engineers moved forward with a plan to stabilize the beach in downtown Montauk by installing 3100 linear feet of geo-tubes on the beach and dunes then covering them with additional sand. This shoreline armoring project has limited beach access and will ultimately harm the public beach.

At the Montauk lighthouse, the Army Corps of Engineers has plans to expand the shoreline armoring at the base of the bluff below the light house. This project will help protect the lighthouse but will impact the beach and surfing areas nearby. Surfrider believes that moving the lighthouse back, which is an increasingly common response along the eastern seaboard, is a superior solution that will project the historic lighthouse while preserving the beautiful beaches and surfing spots.

These unfortunate projects have increased the Eastern Long Island Chapter and the community’s determination to advocate for sustainable and more effective long-term solutions for coastal preservation. Surfrider’s coastal experts are supporting chapter’s important work protect protect Eastern Long Island’s beaches. Through the Two Coasts: One Ocean, bicoastal event series we seek to raise funds for our local and national mission. Funds from the Montauk event support our efforts to conduct a local engineering study that will inform a plan to preserve the Montauk lighthouse for the long term, but also educate and organize the community around the common purpose of coastal preservation in the face of growing pressure from climate change and sea level rise.

To learn more about the work of Eastern Long Island, follow the chapter on Facebook and visit their website here.

To take part in Two Coasts: One Ocean in Malibu, purchase tickets or sponsorship here.