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Aug 5, 2009 12:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Trustees approve bulldozing on beach to help dunes

Aug 5, 2009 12:00 PM

In the hopes of grabbing some of the natural sand that builds up along South Fork beaches in the summer but is sucked away by the sea in winter, consultants for six Sagaponack homeowners are planning to bulldoze a layer of sand off the beach near Gibson Lane and use it to build up the eroded dunes nearby.

The proposal to scrape a foot of sand off the top of a stretch of beach some 700 feet long and 60 feet wide was brought to the Southampton Town Trustees on Monday by consultant Chuck Bowman. The board unanimously approved the project on a one-time, experimental basis.

“It’s something I’ve been curious about for a long time,” Trustee Fred Havemeyer said. “It seems this could be a very useful tool.”

Mr. Bowman, owner of Land Use Ecological Services, a Riverhead development consulting firm, said that beach scraping has been used on Fire Island to bolster natural dunes since 1993 and has revealed no significant negative effects. Quogue Village also got permission from the state to bulldoze sand from its beaches into the dunes in 2006.

Mr. Bowman said it would have little or no impact on the beach in Sagaponack, other than the interruption of its use by sunbathers for the two or three days it will take to move the sand.

Beach scraping takes advantage of the natural building of beaches that takes place in the spring and summer, when gentle ocean swells and southerly breezes deposit millions of tons of sand along the south shores of Long Island. Come fall, easterly winds and stormy seas take back much of the sand they left. But by pushing some of the sandy bounty up into the dunes in summer, at least some of it can be put to good use before it vanishes.

“We’re not taking the sand out of the system, it’s just redistributing it,” Mr. Bowman said. “There’s no negative impact. It’s a thimble full of sand compared to what’s on the beach.”

Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist and consultant who helped draft the DEC requisites on beach scraping, said it is a short-term solution. “It doesn’t solve the erosion problem—it’s just moving sand around,” he said. “But it has been an effective way to harvest some sand and move it a few thousand feet to provide some short-term added protection.”

Mr. Bowman said the removal of the sand from 700 linear feet of beach will bolster the dunes in front of six homes, owned by Alan Stillman, owner of the Smith & Wolensky chain of steakhouses, and one owned by fashion designer Ellie Tahari.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has set up very specific criteria under which the sand transfer can be done. The beach must be at least 100 feet wide from the toe of the dune to the high water line. It must also be at least 7 feet above sea level at the high water mark and 9 feet at the toe of the dunes. Only 1 foot of sand, in depth, may be removed from the top of the beach in an area no more than 60 feet wide.

Mr. Bowman said that beach scraping projects are made more difficult by the short window between the time that piping plovers leave their nests on the beach, usually the end of July, and the time that beaches start to lose their sand to the ocean again just a few weeks later.

“By the time the beach builds up … you’re dealing with plovers,” he said. “It’s on the wane by August 15. The plover window closes August first, so that’s two weeks.”

The Trustees, who have battled homeowners for years over various proposals to protect houses with hardened structures, typically only allow sand to be trucked in and dumped at the foot of dunes to expand them. The scraping process will be much cheaper, Mr. Bowman said, and will give homeowners in the chronically eroded region a long-term solution to rebuilding their dunes after hard winters.

“I like it,” Trustee Brian Tyman said. “I think it’s a great pilot program. It’s a pilot program for us, but it’s been done before. I like that.”

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So, it's a great pilot program.

The real problem here isn't the erosion, it's the jacka****s who have built their "monuments to excess" on roving dunes, which should be protected from being built upon. PERIOD.

Thank the stars that these nitwits grandiose monuments are no longer pooled with everyone else's homes. IF ONE of these homes went into the ocean, the claim would be astronomical.

Kick them off the dunes, and save the world alot of headache.

Just my opinion, ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 4, 09 7:24 PM
I've got an even better idea than kicking them out (so primitive a notion) Why not, turn them into museums, and we can someday the tour guide can say:

"This is how people used to live, before we created an equitable, and sustainable society.".
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 4, 09 7:44 PM