Guest Spot: It’s the town’s job to protect Route 48

10/08/2016 9:05 AM |


The Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to mitigate coastal erosion at Hashamomuck Cove is ill advised and will prove to be a measure by which taxpayer money is flushed into the sea (“Concerns over Hashamomuck,” Sept. 22).

The only benefit of spending tax dollars on this proposed $18 million project will be to delay — not prevent — the destruction of property it was supposedly designed to protect. This proposal should, therefore, be considered not as a solution to property erosion but merely as a postponement of the inevitable.

Coastal communities worldwide are under a slow but unrelenting attack by a rising ocean. Most peer-reviewed scientists forecast a sea level rise of one foot, plus or minus a few inches, by 2050 and the sea is expected to rise by three to possibly more than six feet by 2100. For the Hashamomuck Cove proposal, the ACOE has chosen to use a lower estimate of sea level rise — approximately four inches by 2065 — to calculate the volume of sand necessary to nourish the beaches for the next 50 years. The sea level rise estimate used by the ACOE is disingenuous, for it fails to estimate the sand volume needed should the rate of sea level rise be higher than the ACOE estimate and more in tune with recent peer-reviewed forecasts. A higher rate of rise will increase the rate at which sand is removed from the beach. This means that the ACOE proposal may underestimate the volume of sand necessary to maintain the beach over the next 50 years. This, in turn, would force more frequent sand re-nourishments and that will, over time, inflate the project’s cost to the taxpayers.

The Hashamomuck Cove proposal was initiated in response to property owners who, when the ocean began to eat away at their properties, discovered that they had made poor real estate decisions. With the help of some political leaders, the ACOE responded to the property owners’ concerns by submitting the proposal to spread a six-foot-high ribbon of sand for 8,500 feet along these shore properties. The proposed use of federal, state, county and local tax dollars to protect private and business properties has been justified by the claim that the project will also protect Route 48 from erosion and closure.

The ACOE’s lawful mandate is limited to protecting the nation’s coasts and navigable waterways. The ACOE has less interest in seriously exploring other options for protecting roadways like Route 48, which are outside the agency’s lawful domain. This observation was strengthened when ACOE representative Gene Brickman admitted that other options, such as the selective raising of Route 48 or moving Route 48 landward, are not the ACOE’s responsibility, which suggests these options received minimal attention.

These options deserve greater scrutiny by Southold Town because properly engineered designs would offer longer-term and more effective protection for Route 48. The taxpayer would be better served if project attention were focused directly on protecting the integrity of Route 48 for the long term rather than on the shorter-term protection of a few properties that may not provide ancillary protection for this important roadway.

The author is a longtime Southold resident and a retired Southampton College marine science professor.