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East Hampton’s shoreline is in danger due to sea level rise

Julio Cortez

Homes, businesses and transportation on Long Island’s South Fork are vulnerable to rising sea levels, according to consultants for the town of East Hampton.

They were hired to create a draft of the town’s Coastal Assessment Resiliency Plan. They examined how extreme weather and coastal erosion could impact flooding in low-lying communities, like Montauk.

Kevin McAllister, the founder of the environmental group Defend H2O, said the town needs to act fast with preventative measures before it becomes too late.

“The longer we wait, the more costly and difficult it will be to really execute climate change adaptation,” said McAllister, who also lives in East Hampton.

The plan recommends beach restoration and engineered solutions to mitigate flooding. It also concludes the town will need policies to guide and incentivize a “managed retreat” of development away from shorelines.

McAllister has advocated for the town to focus on vulnerable areas like downtown Montauk.

“You know, eminent domain, where we actually are forewarning property owners in 15 years we will take this property from you, the government will. There’s an obligation for market value, but we've got to put a line in the sand where we compel relocation off of these vulnerable areas,” McAllister said.

The report is not a legislative document but is intended to be a handbook for town officials to craft ways to mitigate the realities of sea level rise.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.