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Oct 16, 2013 11:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Quogue Group Pushing For Nourishment On Village Beaches

Oct 16, 2013 2:35 PM

As dredging gets under way for a groundbreaking $26 million nourishment effort for the beaches in Sagaponack, Water Mill and Bridgehampton, elsewhere in the town another oceanside village is grappling with the issue of beach nourishment in its own right.

Fueled by a citizen-based initiative that footed more than $100,000 to have a nourishment plan drafted, Quogue Village has been flirting with the idea of undergoing beach nourishment for more than three years.

Mayor Peter Sartorius said the Village Board was approached in 2010 by a group of citizens lobbying for nourishment of Quogue’s 2.7-mile stretch of beach. The group of primarily Dune Road residents, which formed the nonprofit Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation, agreed to pay the permit fees on behalf of the village.

“There’s no commitment to go forward with any kind of a project,” Mayor Sartorius said. “It wasn’t like a secret or anything—it was mentioned in meetings, and I addressed it in my state of the village address.”

Currently, the group has pending applications for beach nourishment, in the village’s name, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York General Services Administration and the New York Coastal Management Program, according to Aram Terchunian of First Coastal, a Westhampton Beach erosion control firm.

Mr. Terchunian is a longtime consultant to the group as well as a consultant for the project in eastern Southampton Town.

“It’s important, because everyone’s got a stake in the beach—regardless of where you live in Quogue, you’ve got a stake in the beach,” Mr. Terchunian said. “If you’re a Quogue resident and you’ve been going to the beach for the past eight to 10 years, you know that it’s a shrinking situation.”

The Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation is calling for a project that would dredge about 1.1 million cubic yards of sand from the ocean floor about a mile offshore and use that sand to add an average of 60 feet of beach to the 14,235 linear feet of coastline. The added sand would act as an additional barrier to protect the houses on Dune Road, as well as the village as a whole, Mr. Terchunian explained.

According to the group’s proposed plan, which is available on its website, quoguebeaches.org, as well as in hard copies at the Quogue Library and Village Hall, the project could be completed in about two months and would cost more than $14.1 million.

Mayor Sartorius said the village has no intentions of moving forward with such a project at this time, as it has not been determined if it’s necessary or in the public’s best interest, adding, “At this point we’re at an informal discussion phase.”

The mayor said that Quogue’s beaches are in much better shape, comparatively, than those farther east.

However, through the study it funded, the foundation “quantified what people have been saying anecdotally for years,” Mr. Terchunian said, explaining that areas of bad beach erosion are moving from east to west. The group is concerned that Quogue might be one of the next victims if proper measures aren’t taken, he said.

Marjorie Kuhn, who has been a homeowner in Quogue for 30 years, said the group is attempting to spread information about their study to try to get enough community support to move forward with the project, ideally before another storm like last year’s Hurricane Sandy.

“Every hurricane that hits, I hold my breath,” she said. “Whenever the seasons turn, your heart is in your throat, because these storms can just do so much damage.”

It is unclear at this point how such a project would be funded. While the mayor and members of the foundation maintain that all options are on the table, one of the options at the forefront of the discussions is the formation of a beach erosion control district, similar to the ones in Sagaponack and Bridgehampton, which is accounting for $25 million of the funding there.

Before an erosion district can be formed, the Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation would have to drum up enough support to approach the town about creating one. By state law, villages cannot form these taxing districts.

After Hurricane Sandy, some Quogue residents reached out to Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst to discuss a taxing district, according to the supervisor’s deputy chief of staff, Jennifer Garvey.

Ms. Garvey wrote in an email that Ms. Throne-Holst gave no recommendations to the Quogue citizens about forming a taxing district, but did provide information about the town’s previous efforts. She also wrote that a group needs a significant amount of support before it can approach the Town Board about forming such a district.

Mayor Sartorius said if a district were formed, the first question would be what homes would be included in it. “Sagaponack formed districts—they’re very limited districts, they only cover people on the dunes and the beaches in the relevant areas,” the mayor said. “If you did a district in Quogue, the question is, who would pay?”

Mr. Terchunian said no matter how the village chooses to handle it, in a project such as the one the Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation has proposed, the oceanfront homeowners would bear the brunt of the cost.

However, many Dune Road residents don’t feel the beaches need to be nourished at all, such as one oceanfront resident who built his home five years ago and chose to move his house farther from the water than the previous house was. The man, who declined to share his name when interviewed there, said homeowners have a responsibility to protect their own homes in the best, most responsible way possible.

Charles Skeen, who lives on the bay side of Dune Road, also opposes the creation of a tax district, which he said is unnecessary because of the current state of the beach. Mr. Skeen, who has lived in his home since 1996, said he and his wife, Lorraine, have taken many walks and runs and seen the beaches change year to year and month to month. “Nature will take its course,” he said.

“The beach here is as wide as I’ve ever seen it,” he added. “From my point of view, the beach is as good as ever.”

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