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Oct 15, 2014 10:32 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Gregor Suggests That Southampton Town Abandon Part Of Dune Road

Oct 15, 2014 10:32 AM

Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor is proposing that the town consider abandoning a short stretch of Dune Road, just east of Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays, where the ocean has washed over the roadway twice in the last year, allowing the stretch of barrier island to return to its natural state.

Mr. Gregor also suggested creating a flushing mechanism in the area, with the installation of pipes beneath the same stretch of the barrier island, that would permit an exchange of water between Shinnecock Bay and the ocean to address chronic pollution in the bay. He even broached the idea of creating a new cut, one that would be periodically dredged open to allow a tidal exchange through the barrier island at the spot where Dune Road currently exists.

“From Road L to Tiana ... we have a section that we can clearly see the ocean wants to take over,” Mr. Gregor told members of the Southampton Town Trustees on October 6. “I thought, maybe, we could see if there’s something we can do to improve the water quality. We’re thinking two pipes in the diameter of 80 inches to make a substantial exchange.”

The town has had plans for many years to raise an estimated five-mile stretch of Dune Road, between the Quogue Village border and the Shinnecock Inlet, by about 2 feet to relieve chronic flooding there. But securing funding sources for the estimated $7 million project has been a struggle. After Hurricane Sandy, the town applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency but, like many municipalities in the region, has been frustrated by long delays in government appropriations from the billions in hurricane aid.

More recently, the town asked that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consider raising of Dune Road as part of its own $700 million effort to enhance storm protections along the island’s South Shore. The Army Corps added the project to its list of potential support projects but is still weighing the cost-benefit potential.

Twice in recent months, relatively mild storms have washed ocean waves over the meager dunes in a particularly low section of the barrier island, just east of Tiana Beach, and in the same area where Mother Nature has created temporary cuts in the past, according to records kept by the Town Trustees.

“There’ve been several inlets there over the course of the last couple of hundred years,” Trustee Eric Shultz said. “The ocean wants to break through there.”

Western Shinnecock Bay has been plagued by poor water quality for years, choked with blooms of toxic algae. Scientists have pinned the cause of the blooms on heavy influxes of nitrogen from leaking residential septic systems along the bay’s fringe, and poor flushing from the ocean, since western Shinnecock and Quantuck bays are cut off from the flow of water coming in through the Shinnecock and Moriches inlets.

Stony Brook University professor Christopher Gobler, Ph.D, said that even a large pipe system likely would not create enough flushing to improve the water quality in Shinnecock Bay, and that trying to create a controlled inlet in the barrier island would be difficult and could have unpredictable effects on flushing as well.

“In Great South Bay, the new inlet flushes mainly to the east, as does the Jones Inlet,” Dr. Gobler said, referring to the inlet that was cut through Fire Island during Hurricane Sandy, which has grown to more than 1,000 feet in width and 20 feet in depth. “If a new inlet near Tiana flushed to the east, it might not change water quality significantly in Quogue and Westhampton, where it is needed the most.”

The Trustees said the best first step would be to approach the State Department of Environmental Conservation to see if any of the considerations were even feasible, under state environmental protections, before the town holds any further discussions on potential options.

Mr. Gregor acknowledged that his ideas might have a difficult time gaining any traction. “I’m sure it would be considerable cost, but we’re not afraid of looking at the big picture,” he said.

“We all know that after Little Pikes broke through, the bay was never cleaner,” Mr. Gregor added, referring to the temporary inlet created near West Hampton Dunes Village in the early 1990s. “It’s simpler to flush it out than to figure it out.”

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Finally, an official who calls for a prudent an actionable measure to improve water quality rather than another study. Congratulations Mr. Gregor, you just got my vote forever.

The inconvenience of not having the roadway is significant but the health of the bay there is worth the sacrifice.
By shocean (16), Southampton on Oct 15, 14 3:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
I think its a fantastic idea!
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Oct 17, 14 11:16 AM
Go Alex! The is a wonderful, innovative idea, really outside the box and right on target.

I don't see much of a traffic downside -- an inlet with dead ends on either side, everything reachable by either the Ponquogue Bridge for the east side, or the Quogue/WHB bridges for the west side. One public beach on each side: Ponquogue for the east and Tiana for the west.

People using the Inlet, restaurants, fishing dock and beach on the east don't have a pressing need to go along the ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 17, 14 12:25 PM
Ah yes. He's like a Timex your friend Alex...He takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'...
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Oct 19, 14 12:48 PM
Guys, this is one of the best ideas I HAVE EVER HEARD
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Oct 18, 14 12:37 AM
Isn't this the same section of Dune Road that the same Alex Gregor proposed raising a foot or so a year or two ago? What became of that plan? That would be a much more viable position and maintain safer evacuation options.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Oct 18, 14 1:17 AM
So when Ponquoge Beach's parking lot is filled in the high summer season, and all the spots on the letter beaches are filled, the "east end" folks won't be able to access Tiana Beach? - that is, without a long drive?
Plus, as you can see with the jones inlet that Sandy created on Fire Island, water cannot be controlled. That inlet is huge - 1000ft across and 20 ft deep now. Even the small inlet from the peconic bay by West landing into squiretown pond has grown drastically over the years. It ...more
By Kismetkatsu (1), Hampton bays on Oct 20, 14 7:33 PM
I didn't see one day this past summer whereas Tiana parking was filled. Yes, the road needs to be raised but that wont solve the problem Gregor is speaking of. The ocean has tried to claim a section of road 3 maybe 4 times in recent. Only a major beach and dune restoration is a viable fix. I assume Alex does not want to keep spending money removing sans from the road when mother nature is being testy and the money its costing to remove the sand can be better spent on needy town Roads.

As ...more
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Oct 21, 14 1:33 AM
Could it be that he really does want to raise the road, not close it and this is a way to get attention, and money, to do so?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Oct 21, 14 12:47 PM