Coastal Preservation, Shoreline Armoring, Surf Protection
November 10 2015

Montauk Beach Destruction

by Dr. Chad Nelsen

On Friday, November 6, the Army Corps of Engineers started the construction of a geotextile seawall along the beach in downtown Montauk, Long Island, NY. In response there has been a massive public outcry including packed public hearings, protests, civil disobedience, arrests, and a massive paddle out in opposition. Local action continues (see below).

The Surfrider Foundation and our Eastern Long Island Chapter have been opposing this project for over a year. 


The project calls for a 3,100 foot long, 35 foot wide, and 10.5 foot high geotext tile seawall that consists of over 14,000 individual bags. The seawall will be built as far as 60 feet seaward of the natural primary dune.  It also calls for the seawall to be covered with sand to act as an artificial dune.

The problem

The project design is ill-conceived. The entire sand berm and a portion of the geotextile seawall will be located in what is now the ocean intertidal zone (the area covered by water at high tide). The berm will not last and the geotextile bags will be uncovered far before the design life of the project is reached. If the geotextile bags are not destroyed in a storm, they will act as a seawall, narrowing the beach until it disappears. There is a very high likelihood that the public beach will be lost as the project erodes.


The larger problem is that the primary dune along downtown Montauk was destroyed and coastal devlopement was built in its place.  Healthy coastal dunes can protect the coast and provide a buffer to erosion.  And west of the project, those healthy coastal dunes exist. 

Dr. Rob Young, one of the nation's leading coastal geologists and an expert on the impacts for projects like this, wrote a comment letter on this project.  Read Dr. Rob Young's comment letter here

The solution

In the short term the simple construction of dunes and berm reconfiguration without a geotextile bag core, would provide temporary protection without the impacts of the seawall. This alternative was not considered in the planning.

In the longer term a well designed and constructed bill fill (“nourishment”) project can provide temporary protection but is costly and will likely impact the nearshore habitats, beach going and surfing. 

A true long term solution is to relocate the structures along the beach landward, if possible, or remove them and restore the primary dune.

What you can do


Show Up: Those in the area who can should attend the regular meeting of the Town Board tomorrow (November 10th) at 10AM at the Montauk Firehouse.  This is a work session where the public cannot normally speak, but a large presence will speak volumes. 

If you can’t get to the Montauk Firehouse tomorrow, from wherever you are, please email the East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell through this action alert here (coming soon!) 

After you email Supervisor Cantwell, please sign the petition that is going to many more elected and appointed officials in NY.  

Everyone else:

If you live outside Montauk but care about this beautiful place, you can register your opposition here.

Stay up todate by following the Eastern Long Island Chapter's Facebook page here