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Nov 18, 2019 1:38 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Dredging Efforts Stall As Berm Washes Out In Hampton Bays

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman watches as the ocean washes away the dune across from the commercial fishing dock in Hampton Bays on Monday.  DANA SHAW
Nov 19, 2019 5:02 PM

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman on Monday issued a new state of emergency for a portion of Dune Road in Hampton Bays, just east of the Ponquogue Bridge, after the ocean-facing dune was breached.

It was the fourth time since October 10 that Mr. Schneiderman has declared a state of emergency for the stretch of Dune Road that runs between the Shinnecock Commercial Fishing Docks and the Atlantic Ocean.

The dune separating Dune Road from the ocean was breached on October 10, when a nor’easter churned off the coast — and the same thing occurred again on Monday morning.

“We’re facing another problem on Dune Road,” Mr. Schneiderman said on Monday morning. “The berm is washing out.”

The Town Highway Department sent a payloader to the scene on Monday to mobilize stock piles of sand from the north side of the road to the berm to help bolster it.

Suffolk County Public Works crews began dredging sand from inside Shinnecock Bay to the ocean-facing beach between the west jetty and Ponquogue Beach facility on November 3, in an effort to slow down the erosion process. Approximately 90,000 cubic yards of sand was expected to be mobilized over the next month.

Mr. Schneiderman said the beach in front of Oakland’s has been built up so that it is about 40 feet wide, but the beach in front of the commercial docks was very narrow.

In fact, waves were crashing and flowing across Dune Road on Monday morning, he said as an 11:35 a.m. high tide was approaching. The next high tide was forecast for 12:35 a.m. on Tuesday. “I won’t be surprised if it washes over,” Mr. Schneiderman said at the time.

He added that the dredging operation had been suspended for Monday due to rough seas.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Schneiderman said Highway Department crews scraped the sand off the road and rebuilt the berm. While there was some loss during the midnight high tide, the majority of the berm held up.

Concerns about the east end of Dune Road flooded Facebook posts on Monday night in response to videos and photos of the washed-out berm that were shared repeatedly. Some people were in disbelief as one of their favorite spots was being washed to the sea, while others were upset with the fight the town and county are putting up against Mother Nature.

No stranger to the coastal system on Long Island, Aram Terchunian, a coastal engineering consultant and the owner of First Coastal Corporation of Westhampton Beach, said the area in question is a closed cell, meaning sand does not naturally deposit along the 4,000-foot stretch of beach between the western Shinnecock Inlet jetty and Ponquogue Beach.

The sand there is supposed to be regularly replenished with larger grain sized sand from a borrow site approximately two miles offshore, every four years, Mr. Terchunian said.

“That project has been neglected for too long,” he said, adding that the permit to do the project ran out. “This is like a house on fire. The first thing you have to do is put the fire out. Then, once you put the fire out, you have to figure out what you can salvage.”

As town and county officials scramble to come up with a solution to save Dune Road from being taken by the sea, Mr. Terchunian said emergency, interim and long-term solutions need to be established.

Sand-filled geocubes, he said, could be maneuvered to help save the road and businesses as an immediate solution. Geocubes have been used at a beach pavilion in Quogue, and while erosion does occur, the structure has been protected during coastal storms, according to Mr. Terchunian.

The placement of geotubes and other hardened structures along ocean-facing beaches has been criticized by the Southampton Town Trustees because of adverse effects they have in accelerating erosion in some areas.

“You’re either going to worry about something that might happen, or you are going to worry about the thing that is actually happening,” Mr. Terchunian said. “It’s a closed cell. What happens within this 4,000 feet of beach doesn’t affect anything else.”

He said one long-term solution that could protect the beach would be to install T-Groins — groins that stick out from the beach and have a T-head at the end of them.

Mr. Terchunian said the groins would not have to be very long, and they could hold the beach in place and not have any adverse impacts east or west.

In his opinion, the situation must be fixed, Mr. Terchunian said, or another inlet could be formed. As a result, additional flooding may occur in Shinnecock Bay and acres of wetlands would be covered with sand.

“This is eminently fixable, but it’s been neglected for a long time,” he said. “Now we're in a crisis situation, and we’ve got to respond to the crisis. The town and the county have been doing great, but they’re going to need a lot more help to get through this winter.

“We’ve got to go to the next step and secure that road over the winter, then sit down … and figure this thing out, once and for all,” he added.

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