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May 20, 2014 9:58 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Quogue Beach Nourishment Proposal Inches Forward

May 21, 2014 11:25 AM

One wants to know why the Village of Quogue needs a beach nourishment project that would pump 1.1 million cubic yards of sand along the municipality’s coastline. Another asks whether the village has investigated alternatives to the proposed project, estimated to cost around $15 million. And yet another wants to know who will foot the bill if the project eventually gets a green light.

A total of 40 questions, comments and observations submitted by village residents to the State Department of Environmental Conservation this past winter, in response to Quogue’s application to advance the project if the Village Board ultimately decides to move forward with it, were recently addressed by coastal engineer Aram Terchunian.

Most of the concerns echo the fact that the section of beach targeted for the proposed nourishment project, which is being pushed by a group of Dune Road homeowners collectively known as the Save The Dunes and Beach Foundation, is adjacent to privately owned properties. Therefore, most of those filing comments with the state agency argued that those homeowners should be the ones paying for the beach-widening project. The Village Board, which has not yet decided if the project is worth pursuing, also has not announced how the work would be funded if it is pursued.

In his response to the DEC, Mr. Terchunian of the First Coastal Corporation in Westhampton Beach, who has been hired by the Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation, argues that the entire village—and not just those living on Dune Road—are at risk if there is an eventual breach in the dunes. The foundation is funding the permit and research process, already said to have cost approximately $100,000, though the village remains the official applicant on the DEC paperwork.

“A breach would erode the tax base, public services, and property values throughout the village, and the quality of life,” Mr. Terchunian wrote in his 25-page response to the DEC, filed at the end of April. “The allocation of the project costs is a matter for local determination by the Quogue Board of Trustees after public input.”

Mr. Terchunian is also the village’s representative for its proposed Quogue Beach Nourishment Project, which seeks to expand the width of the village’s 2.7-mile stretch of coastline by approximately 60 feet. If approved, the project would dredge an estimated 1.1 million cubic yards of sand from the ocean floor about a mile off the coast and use that to widen the village’s entire shoreline. The extra sand, Mr. Terchunian wrote in his response, would serve as a barrier and protect all the homes in the village, not just those on Dune Road.

“They pay him, but he is our representative to obtain the permits,” Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius said, referring to Mr. Terchunian. “None of this stuff was ever under the table.”

In his response, Mr. Terchunian repeated several times that the Quogue shoreline loses, on average, approximately 60,000 cubic yards of sand annually. He said that number was calculated utilizing 53 separate profiles of the coastline taken over the past two decades.

“It is likely that if the eye of [Hurricane] Sandy had come ashore closer to Quogue, the surge from that storm would have extended all the way across Dune Road,” he wrote, again in response to those who think that only a few select homes would benefit from the work.

The eastern and western ends of Dune Road sustained the heaviest damage during Hurricane Sandy, with the lone breach, dubbed “Sandy’s Inlet” by some, occurring just to the east of Moriches Inlet. Most of the protective dunes lining Dune Road were washed away during the 2012 storm, with multiple washovers occurring in Quogue, East Quogue and Hampton Bays. Some parts of the eastern end of Dune Road in Hampton Bays were buried under several feet of sand after the powerful storm.

Mr. Terchunian also noted that those working on the proposal are still looking into alternative solutions, though studies from an environmental impact statement from 1997 suggest that this type of nourishment would be the most feasible option for Quogue. “Beach nourishment is the only comprehensive alternative that directly addresses the problem and uses an environmentally sensitive approach,” he wrote, as opposed to bypassing the Shinnecock Inlet, or using offshore breakwaters or jetties.

He also pointed out that the proposal would virtually mirror a similar nourishment project that was completed this past winter and bolstered a six-mile span of beach between Bridgehampton and Sagaponack Village. That $26 million project, which finished up in early February, is being primarily financed through a special taxing district and funded by the 122 oceanfront property owners within the area. Those property owners had previously voted, via a public referendum, to set up the taxing district. Southampton Town, which owns about a half-dozen properties along the stretch of beach, is contributing $1.5 million to the work.

At this point, a cost-benefit analysis of the work proposed for Quogue has not yet been completed, according to Mr. Terchunian. He explained that can be done only after the DEC signs off on the permit. In his response to the DEC, Mr. Terchunian said the analysis would have to be financed by the village because his contract covered only the environmental permitting process; he also explained that the $15 million estimate for the work comes from the feasibility report procured by his company as part of the permit application process.

Mr. Sartorius said Monday that he does not think a cost-benefit analysis would be required, pointing out that an estimate was already provided. He also said the village will not make a decision on how to proceed until after the DEC signs off on the permit—if it happens.

The mayor previously noted that the board has agreed to allow members of the Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation to take the lead on the permit process, though the village has not yet decided whether such a project is needed or, if approved, how it would be financed.

In addition to the DEC, the draft proposal of the beach nourishment project has also been filed with several other agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New York Coastal Management Program, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All must sign off on the proposal.

The ball is now in the DEC’s court, and agency officials are going to review Mr. Terchunian’s response and determine whether a public hearing on the application is required before deciding whether to issue the permit. It is unclear how long that process will take, according to Aphrodite Montalvo, a spokeswoman for the DEC.

As for Mr. Terchunian, he thinks that such a project is the only way to protect the village—both the portion along Dune Road and on the mainland.

“If you’re going to address a sand deficit, this is how it’s done,” he said.

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