Remodeling a house, or even a kitchen, can sometimes bring up interpersonal conflicts that people weren't aware of before they started the work. When you remodel a whole beach, the same kind of differences may arise on a community scale. Take the example of Montauk, on Long Island, New York: some locals there are bitterly opposing a beach-hardening project of the Army Corps of Engineers, and town officials there find themselves working to manage not just the technical issues, but also the political fallout of the project.
Eyewitness News ABC-7 (WABC-TV) covered the story here (see: "Protests in Montauk over Wall of Sandbags on Beach to Prevent Flooding," by Kristin Thorne). "The Army Corps of Engineers says it's protecting against flooding by sandbagging the entrance to the beach ahead of winter storms. The $8.4 million project involves putting some 14,000 artificial sandbags, known as geobags, along a half mile stretch of beach near downtown Montauk. The goal, according to the town of East Hampton and the Army Corps of Engineers, is to protect the downtown from flooding. But local residents see it as destroying their precious beachfront."
Opponents include the Eastern Long Island chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a national nonprofit activist group. Surfrider Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager John Weber outlined the group's stance in an interview with Curbed Hamptons (see: "Talking with Surfrider Manager John Weber About the Army Corps Work in Montauk," by Laura Euler). "Hard structures cause beaches to disappear, mostly through wave action," argued Weber. "If you put a hard structure the path of an incoming wave's energy, that energy has to go somewhere. Typically, it hits the wall and all of that energy is reflected back out, seaward, and it takes sand with it. Slowly, this make the beach disappear... There are several prominent examples of seawalls made of geotubes failing."
In an editorial in Riverhead Local, writer Karl Grossman makes a case against the Corps project (see: "Wrongheaded work of Army Corps is destroying, not protecting, our shoreline," by Karl Grossman). "The larger Army Corps scheme was one I began writing about when I came in as a journalist on Long Island in 1962," Grossman writes. "It was stopped as knowledge was gained regionally and nationally on the science of coastal geology. The plan called for massive sand-dumping along the south shore and construction of rock jetties or “groins” — a concept of “hard” coastal structures determined to be highly damaging to the shore beyond them. The Army Corps scheme underwent a 'reformulation' but still wasn’t getting far until Sandy struck and massive amounts of federal money became available for various post-Sandy projects."
But officials in East Hampton Town, the authority having jurisdiction, say the job will go forward, the East Hampton Star reported (see: "Town Gives Seawall the Go-Ahead," by Joanne Pilgrim). “It’s either this option or nothing,” town supervisor Larry Cantwell told citizens.