On Christmas Eve of 1994, a nor’easter knocked Lynn Laskos’ home on Route 48 off its foundation and it plunged nose first into Long Island Sound near Hashamomuck Cove, she said.
A quarter-century ago, a property next door owned by David Corwin and his family had a full lawn and driveway; it is now standing on pilings about five fee off the ground, which neighbors say are underwater at high tide.
Those were just some of stories described by about 20 property owners who gathered Thursday morning for a press conference at Ms. Laskos’ home to urge federal and other officials to fund a $17.7 million beach re-nourishment project at Hashamomuck Cove.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently began a public comment period on the $17.7 million project, which calls for creating three berms along the three coves in the Hashamomuck Cove area and to fill them in with about 160,000 cubic yards of sand. The project would cover about 1.6 miles, in an area that includes 58 residential structures and two commercial structures.
East End Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said the Army Corps has now extended the comment period from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30. In addition, a public hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 19 in Southold Town Hall. The specific time was not determined yet.
Mr. Zeldin called the press conference to update residents on the status of the project and to urge them to make their voices heard through the comment period.
The planning for the project is fully funded, but the implementation of the job will need a “non-federal sponsor,” according to the Army Corps.
The initial breakdown of the $17.7 million will see 65 percent of the initial construction cost paid by the federal government and 35 percent by the non-federal partner, which could be the state, the county, the town or any combination of those agencies.
There’s also a cost for re-nourishment and maintenance of the cove over the 50-year life of the project and that cost is split 50-50 between the federal and non-federal money.
The total federal government share, about $10.8 million has been approved and authorized, Mr. Zeldin said. The non-federal share, about $6.8 million, has not and must be in place by July 2017.
Mr. Zeldin stressed that in addition to protecting homes and businesses, the Hashamomuck Cove project also is necessary to protect Route 48, which he said “is a critical roadway for transportation and the economy and also is a critical evacuation route in the case of an emergency.”
“The coastline is our economy, so threats to the coastline are threats to our economy,” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said.
“A severe thunderstorm mixed with high tide, which could happen at any time, could lead to serious property destruction and the loss of County Road 48,” Mr. Zeldin said. “I will continue working with the Army Corps, town, county and state officials to finalize funding plans for this project.”
Property owners along Hashamomuck Cove say their homes are all that’s protecting Route 48 from being washed away, but that their homes won’t survive much longer unless a project of this nature is done.
“Eight years ago, the beach in front of my house was at least 20 feet wide and when I first bought the property, between 20 to 30 feet,” said Kate Phelan, who lives on the Cove. “It’s now 3 feet wide. So, I’ve lost 17 feet of deeded land.”
She estimates her property value has decreased by 60 to 70 percent.
Ms. Laskos said her home was rebuilt on pilings after it fell into the Sound in 1994, but prior to that, when the water came in, they would open the back door and the front doors of the basement and let the water pass through to the road to save the house.
She said in 1960 there was 150 feet of beach in front of the property, which her family has owned since the early 1950s. Now, when water hits the bulkhead during heavy storms, the water splashes into the second floor bedrooms.
Bill Frangos has lived on the Cove for only a few years, but his sister has lived there for 20 years.
“Obviously we’re concerned about our homes, but the homes are what’s protecting this road right now, and the road is definitely more important than homes,” he said. “We probably have accepted the fact that one day, the house will just disappear. But hopefully this project will be able to save it for years to come.”
Mr. Zeldin said the project has been on the public radar for many years, and he is hopeful the state or county will be able to come up with the additional funding by July 2017, which the non-federal funding must be in place.
Comments on the proposal can be sent to:
Ms. Judith Johnson, the Project Biologist, at the New England District Corps of Engineers, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751, or by e-mail to: [email protected].
Top photo caption: Congressman Lee Zeldin speaks at a press conference backed by Hashamomuck Cove homeowners. (Credit: Tim Gannon)