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Jan 13, 2010 10:27 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Long winter, short beaches—a worrisome combination as erosion season arrives

Jan 13, 2010 10:27 AM

A late start to the summer of 2009 and a turbulent autumn has left the ocean beaches in some areas of the East End in critical condition as the Northeast enters what is usually its most meteorologically threatening stretch of the year.

In certain areas, where man-made factors have for decades interrupted the natural processes that form beaches, the situation is even more dire. Dozens of homes and structures in three areas of the South Fork are teetering over cliffs of sand where broad dunes once protected them.

“It’s a precarious situation,” said Mayor Peter Sartorius of Quogue Village, where erosion has erased the beach and dunes that separate the village’s municipal bathing beach and several neighboring homes from the ocean. “

The eastern village is the worst, the village beach being at the epicenter. High tides come right up to the bottom of the dunes.”

During a November nor’easter, waves shattered and washed away the deck and walkway leading from the village’s bathing pavilion to the beach and lapped at the building’s foundation, prompting the village to get emergency permission to install a temporary wall of rocks as a wave break should another storm hit before the beach can be rebuilt, naturally or artificially. Private homeowners in the area were issued permits by the Southampton Town Trustees over the holidays to dump thousands of tons of sand on the beaches in front of their property to rebuild dunes—though such artificially bolstered dunes offer only fleeting protection.

The village has gotten permits to temporarily place boulders on the beach to break advancing waves, but they will ultimately have to be removed.

Last week, President Obama approved some $35 million in federal disaster aid to help offset some of the costs to regional agencies for repairing or bolstering beaches damaged this fall.

To the east, a mile-long stretch of beach in Sagaponack has suffered similarly devastating erosion in the last few months. And in Montauk, several of the north-facing beaches on Block Island Sound have been obliterated.

“It’s been a hard fall—we’ve been hit one after another by these nor’easters,” said Larry Penny, director of the East Hampton Town Natural Resources Department. “And it seems every three or four days it’s up over 25 knots.

“Where we really lost is Soundview,” Mr. Penny added, referring to an area on Montauk’s northern shore, just west of the inlet to Montauk Harbor. “That became its own little disaster area. Kings Point, Promised Land—they’ve been hit bad as well.”

Much like Quogue, erosion is nothing new to Sagaponack. The area has suffered from anemic sand supplies for decades and slowly migrating areas of extreme erosion—a phenomenon known as “erosion waves” associated with gaps in the offshore sandbars—have threatened nearly every oceanfront property with destruction at some point in the last two decades.

Southampton Town and a group of homeowners recently lost a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that blamed the erosion on stone groins at Georgica Beach in East Hampton Town and would have forced Suffolk County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to undertake an enormous sand replenishment project, on par with the one that gave birth to West Hampton Dunes in the early 1990s.

In the short term, homeowners are individually left to contract frequent deposits of sand along the beach in front of their homes, a thin and usually short-lived shield. In the long-term, experts say, the only thing that will protect Sagaponack’s coastal areas is a major beach nourishing project.

In the wake of the failure of the lawsuit to secure a massive beach replenishment project, the Sagaponack Village government, formed in 2005, has begun its own effort toward securing a sand transfer project through political channels. The village stands to receive some of the funds from the recent disaster declaration, though exactly how the money will be allocated is still unknown. The Village Board is also trying to rekindle an effort to form a special taxing district along its oceanfront that could make the area eligible for federal stimulus funds. Village Trustee Patrick Guarino said that the village is making a new appeal to oceanfront homeowners, who voted down the taxing district proposal in 2006, to support the creation of the district.

After this fall’s successive storms, the stretch of beach between Georgica Pond and Peter’s Pond Lane has borne the brunt of the abuse. Storm-driven waves during the two strong nor’easters in November erased nearly 100 feet of ancient dunes in some places. Homeowners are left with little protection for their homes and even less hope that the situation will improve in the near future.

“When your volume of sand reaches this critically low threshold, every storm becomes a danger,” says coastal geologist Aram Terchunian, whose Westhampton-based company, First Coastal, contracts with many local municipalities and homeowners on dune and beach renourishment projects.

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uhhhh, people who own ocean front properties in sagaponack need federal taxpayer money to do what? dump sand in front of their houses? what did they do with the bonuses they got from the investment bank bailout? oh, right, they paid for those houses with that.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Jan 20, 10 8:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
rnment guidelines based on the objective opinions of oceanographers and geologists in order to erect barriers to waves and littoral drift that may work in the short term but cause another homeowner along the beach to pay the price by shifting sand starvation to HIS beachfront.

The inescapable fact is that building on the barrier beach is a chronicle of a disaster foretold because the barrier beach moves feet, yards, and miles in response to geomorphic processes that are still little understood. ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 21, 10 3:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
When a paper quotes someone who, by his title, could be inferred to be an expert, It should do the research to establish his bona fides. Mr.Terchunian has, for decades, been contracting with beachfront homeowners to fortify their property against erosion with structures that no one, other than Mr. Terchunian, believes are actually effective. His spurious analyses empower property owners to defy government guidelines. . .

[Above is the beginning of the truncated post that preceded this ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 21, 10 3:21 AM
Actually HHS, the paper has done a good job establishing Mr. Terchunians bona fides. Simply do a search, find the articles about him creating his own "Baykeeper" job in Quogue Village. Mr. Terchunian and a "restaurant owner" put the bogus "group" together to counter the good work of our actual Baykeeper. Terchunian lost a lawsuit, has no credibility and should not be allowed to mess with our beaches. He even had a truck mocked up that he parked all the time in Quogue w/ anti Peconic Baykeeper signs ...more
By G (342), Southampton on Jan 21, 10 7:20 AM
Just to inform those members of the East End communities (and G), you have a right to know that Kevin McAllister is a paid environmental activist. His organization obtains funds from people to fight their battles through membership fees, fundraisers, donations and solicitations. He is not a public official in any manner, nor is he appointed, sanctioned or regulated by any agency of government.
He runs a not-for-profit corporation called Peconic Baykeeper Incorporated, to which he holds the office ...more
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Jan 21, 10 8:39 AM
The appeal of the jetty beach erosion case, Southampton/Ireland v. Suffolk County, will be argued on February 4, 2010, at 10:00 A.M., in the ceremonial court at 500 Pearl Street in New York City. Given the national importance of perserving the public beaches the argument is expcted to draw significant media attention.
By Beachgoer (2), Bridgehampton on Jan 21, 10 4:57 PM
Who caahs!..There will always be beaches... they just won't always be where they are now ...Mother nature always wins......
By pmofo (37), East Quogue on Jan 22, 10 1:19 AM