They dig inlet dredging

08/26/2010 12:00 AM |

At the public meeting to present Mattituck Inlet dredging options, Ron McGreevy asks Army Corp of Engineers representatives a question.

A chorus of support for the proposed dredging of Mattituck Inlet greeted the Army Corps of Engineers at an information session at the Mattituck-Laurel Library Monday night.

A congressional aide reminded dredging proponents they will need to keep up their support and write letters in favor of the project if they want Congress to okay the $3.2 million bill for it.

Congressman Tim Bishop’s spokesperson, Jon Schneider, urged attendees to write the congressman, who just recently joined with critics to fight the controversial Orient water main project, which would have been paid for in part by federal stimulus money,

“I’m very interested to hear the community input. Certainly, no one is going to force a project that doesn’t have the support of the community,” said Mr. Schneider. “If we have the support, it is the congressman’s intention to go after the $3.2 million.”

All but one person who spoke was in favor of the project, but tempers in the room flared every time Inlet Drive resident Christine Rivera got up to speak.

Ms. Rivera, who owns the first parcel west of Breakwater Beach, won a lawsuit in 2007 that prevented the dredging. She argued at the time that sand that had built up on her beach due to the Army Corps jetties at Mattituck Inlet belonged to her.

The Army Corps had initially planned to move 125,000 cubic yards of sand, most from Breakwater Beach, where Ms. Rivera’s property is, to Bailie Beach on the east side. That beach has been scoured away because the western jetty has blocked and retained sand carried by the onshore current.

The Army Corps’ current plan is to dredge the inlet to a depth of 11 feet, four feet deeper than the current channel, and place that sand, plus another 10,000 cubic yards from Breakwater Beach, on Bailie Beach and other beaches extending several thousand feet east of the jetties.

Ms. Rivera said that she thought the plan was a reasonable option, but she asked Army Corps representatives to do a study to ensure that there will be no damage to the western beach if sand is removed.

“There was sand mining on Mattituck Park District beaches and 12 homes had to be bulkheaded,” she said. “I have pictures of the water up to the swings at the beach and in the parking lot at the end of Inlet Drive. It seems to me if we have a storm again, the water would be in the breakwater parking lot.”

Her comments raised the ire of many in the audience who have lost much of their beachfront in recent years.

“In 1992, many homes on the east side had to bulkhead. You’ve accreted land,” said Sharlena Catullo. “We’ve seen the harm. You’ve benefited from it.”

“We lost 40 feet. That was a real loss,” added her husband, Dan Catullo. “Imelda Marcos had 2,000 pairs of shoes and she wasn’t satisfied. What’s enough?”

Ron McGreevy added that, using figures supplied by the Army Corps at the meeting, 56,000 cubic yards of sand had accreted on the west side of the jetties since the inlet was last dredged in 2004. He added that any erosion Ms. Rivera might have experienced decades ago would have been due to jetties farther west owned by the Levon and Curtiss-Wright corporations. The jetties have since been removed.

Frank Wills, who lives on the bluff west of Ms. Rivera’s property, remembered losing his entire beach in 1977 due to erosion caused by the Levon/Curtiss-Wright jetties. He said that after those jetties were removed and his beach began building back up again, he could see bulldozers taking sand from where it had accreted on Breakwater Beach.

“They were taking sand and there was no erosion,” he said. “It was the Levon jetties. We were downstream from them.”

Town officials in the room urged the Army Corps to go forward with the plan.

“I think you’ve been more than reasonable,” said town Supervisor Scott Russell. “Time is of the essence. We need to get this done.”

“I think you guys have done a good job,” said town Trustee Jim King. “Move it forward and stop nitpicking.”

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