Montauk Lawsuit Withdrawn

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A group of environmental activists who launched a legal effort last year to halt the construction of a 3,200-foot-long seawall of giant sandbags on the beachfront of downtown Montauk have thrown in the towel.

Defend H2O has just withdrawn the suit it filed 11 months ago in New York State Supreme Court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Town of East Hampton to block the 0.6-mile, geotextile revetment, the group announced on February 11.

In court papers, it had argued that prudent, long-standing policies for protecting the region’s coastlines were being abandoned, that environmental laws were being flouted, and that massive damage would be inflicted on Montauk’s beach and its natural protective features should the mega-project be allowed to proceed.

But a judge nixed Defend H2O’s demand for an injunction to halt work, construction of the 14,000-sandbag barrier proceeded in late November, and the advocates determined that the litigation, not to mention the cost of underwriting it, had run is course.

“Sadly, the construction work is pretty far along, and even if we had prevailed, it’s unlikely that a judge would ever undo the damage and order the structure pulled out,” said Kevin McAllister, founder and president of Defend H2O, in an interview on February 12.

“There are also cost implications to an organization like ours, and we didn’t want to be throwing good money after bad,” he added.

Defend H2O is still unyielding in its belief that shore-hardening structures have a destructive impact, and the group continues to argue that it is a well-established scientific fact that, ultimately, they can lead to the disappearance of a beach.

“While the damages have been inflicted, the Montauk tragedy serves as a catalyst for having an honest conversation about rising seas, shoreline dynamics, hard structures, pumping beaches and coastal retreat in our region,” said Mr. McAllister.

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