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Sep 29, 2010 11:00 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Army Corps recommends major sand movements

Sep 29, 2010 11:00 AM

SOUTHAMPTON—Preliminary conclusions of a decades-long assessment of Suffolk County’s ocean beaches by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers call for millions of tons of sand to be dumped onto the beaches west of the Shinnecock Inlet at regular intervals, groins in Westhampton Beach to be shortened a second time, and for the implementation of an odd-year program of dredging within Shinnecock and Moriches inlets and at the inlets’ mouths to keep sand moving naturally along south shore beaches.

But in Sagaponack and Montauk, the Army Corps’ recommendations call for a much less ambitious effort to bolster eroded beaches—and the report does not recommend that stone groins at Georgica Beach in East Hampton, which have been blamed for erosion nearby, be altered or removed.

The most ambitious recommendation in the plan is a “breach response” project at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays, where one million tons of sand would be spread over 3,000 linear feet of beach, rebuilding eroded dunes and raising the height of the beach several feet to prevent a breach of the barrier island in the event of a severe storm or hurricane.

Meanwhile, the maintenance effort at Shinnecock Inlet would scoop about 200,000 tons of sand from the inlet fairways and the sandbar that builds across the mouth of the inlet every two years and deposit the sand on the beaches west of the inlet, starting just west of Ponquogue Beach. The projects would mirror the dredging and sand transfer project conducted earlier this year.

The Army Corps dismissed consideration of a semi-permanent hydraulic sand-transfer system at Shinnecock Inlet, which would have continuously pumped sand from east of the inlet to the beaches west of the inlet. The system was deemed too disruptive—a large hydraulic station would have to be erected at Shinnecock East County Park—and more expensive in the long run than the dredging program would be, according to Army Corps engineer Stephen Couch.

Conversely, transferring sand to the beaches of Sagaponack and Montauk would not be cost effective, Mr. Couch said. The value of the private property that would be protected by major sand beach renourishment does not justify the tens of millions it would cost on a regular basis to keep the beaches there broad, the report concludes.

The primary value of bolstering the barrier beaches to the west of Shinnecock and Moriches would be in protecting the area from the inland flooding that would be experienced along the northern shores of coastal bays should breaches occur in the barrier islands. Sagaponack and Montauk do not pose such threats and have relatively small areas of exaggerated erosion, making major renourishment projects difficult and ineffective, Mr. Couch said.

“We looked at those areas for a traditional beach fill, and it just wasn’t economically feasible by our standards—weighing the value of what you’re protecting against what it costs,” he said.

Instead, he explained, a scaled-down effort, referred to as “sediment management,” could be conducted with smaller dredges, depositing 120,000 tons of sand from offshore sandbars onto the beaches every four years at a greatly reduced cost—$3 million to $5 million per cycle, compared to more than $15 million for full-scale beach nourishment.

The decision not to recommend altering the Georgica groins, as has already been done with Westhampton’s 13 groins, came based on evidence that the groins were likely not the primary cause of the erosion problems in Sagaponack and Bridgehampton.

The details aired at two public information forums—in Southampton on Tuesday and Montauk on Wednesday—are still tentative from the Army Corps’ standpoint. The final report is expected to be issued to the state, which will be responsible for implementing whichever recommendations it sees fit, by next summer. It will likely be another year or two before the state will have a preliminary action plan ready, and several more years of planning and development before any of the actual projects would get under way.

All of the proposals and considerations in the report are also colored by the possibility that critics will label them a colossal waste of money.

“For 50 years, we’ve just been putting sand on beaches and letting it get washed away,” said Alan Fuchs, director of the Bureau of Flood Protection for the State Department of Environmental Conservation. “But at what point is that worth the expense? Are these houses we’re protecting going to survive another 50 years regardless of what we do? If not, what’s the point of continuing to put sand there. It’s a lot of money.”

Cliff Jones, an engineer at the Army Corps, said that no matter what is done along the beaches, it will not prevent breaches and overwashes in the event of a Category 3 hurricane—the estimated strength of the 1938 hurricane. How far governments and communities are willing to go in “buying down the risk” of damage from a major storm remains to be seen.

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Mama Nature calls it "littoral drift" and she wants us to leave her alone.
By loading... (601), quiogue on Oct 2, 10 3:18 PM
Yes, as long as we keep blocking the natural flow of sand we will have to continue to have to pay $$$$$ to move sand to the areas of erosion. It is just a fact of nature!
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Oct 3, 10 9:48 PM
What a shock, the government bureaucrat who yearns to keep a useless job recommends the same thing that has been recommended for 5 decades - dump more sand. The folks who would get the dredging jobs and the excavation work just happen to think its a good idea. And the engineers and politicians hedge their bets by saying that none of it would matter much if there was a real storm. Meanwhile the only voices of reason are the taxpayers whose hard earned money will be wasted on this - funny, they ...more
By justduckey (58), artist colony on Oct 5, 10 1:36 PM
Congressman Bishop received a failing grade for his tax and spending votes in Washington on a Congressional Scorecard just released by the National Tax Limitation Committee (NTLC). Committee President Lewis K. Uhler commented, "Congressman Bishop received a score of 0 out of a possible 100 points which translates into a grade of "F". Congressman Bishop has not only voted against the interests of taxpayers in his district but he has tried to pull the wool over the taxpayers' eyes about his stance ...more
By justduckey (58), artist colony on Oct 6, 10 6:49 AM
the National Tax Limitation Committee, thought it may sound like some official government body, is nothing more than a far right conservative political organization founded by Reagan lackey Lew Uhler, a right-wing ideologue trying to advance his extremist agenda which is to increase the power of corporations over our government. Laughable that you would quote his "study"
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Oct 6, 10 9:38 AM
Hey, I just checked this justduckey's comments, and he must be one of Randy Altschuler's cybergoons beating up on Tim Bishop in the Congressional race. The man has posted this identical comment under 5 articles, this one, the two on the Southampton and East Hampton budgets, the one on Blumenthal running for Assembly, and the one on Saks closing. It doesn't have anything to do with any of the articles. Nothing. It's like a campaign robo-call. What a jerk!
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on Oct 6, 10 1:36 PM