The Southold Town Board is considering a roundtable to get closer to a firm decision on whether to sponsor a project to build a berm at Hashamomuck Cove and renourish the shorefront every five years.
The Army Corps of Engineers project requires a local non-federal sponsor, whether it’s the state, county, town or a combination of the three. The federal government would take on 65 percent of the cost, according to an Army Corps breakdown.
Supervisor Scott Russell said at Tuesday morning’s Town Board work session that the town needs to resolve the matter once and for all and can’t wait for the state or county to decide whether they’ll get involved. He said the Town Board should have its answer ready in two weeks.
But at Tuesday evening’s Town Board meeting, resident Lynn Laskos said Hashamomuck Cove homeowners are looking for a roundtable discussion with the state, county and town.
“I feel the focus of what our Hashamomuck Cove project with the Army Corps of Engineers is really about has been lost somewhere along the line,” Ms. Laskos said.” This project is about County Road 48; it’s not about the homes that buffer the road.”
Hashamomuck Cove saw significant damage in the Jan. 4 winter storm. Bulkheads were ripped apart, a beach shack was washed away and debris now lines what little beachfront is left. Additionally, a section of County Road 48 was breached at high tide during the storm.
Ms. Laskos raised a concern that the town had an inaccurate breakdown on the costs it would have to bear as a local sponsor of the project, but it is unclear where the state and county currently stand on the issue.
The Army Corps’ preliminary report presented two options for the project: a 50-foot berm that would be built over three years or a 25-foot berm that would be completed in one year. Ms. Laskos said the 25-foot berm was more likely the plan moving forward and that the total project cost she learned from the Army Corps would be $14.5 million.
Mr. Russell is skeptical about certain aspects of the plan, such as the federal government paying for emergency repair costs. He said it seems highly subjective and he would need to see the specific criteria for what constitutes an emergency. Project estimates anticipate that refurbishment will be needed every five years, but the supervisor pointed out that it’s conceivable annual refurbishment could be needed — a financial obligation the town would bear if it were to become a local sponsor.
“We’ll have a roundtable, but I’m going to be candid,” Mr. Russell said. “I think these roundtables are a way of some people not wanting to make a decision.”
He also expressed concerned that there has been no commitment from New York State, which would take on the lion’s share of the local cost. Ms. Laskos responded by saying she has been in contact with officials including state Sen. Ken LaValle, Sen. Chuck Schumer and County Executive Steve Bellone.
“It is a county road,” Mr. Russell said. “The town has not created this issue. It is a county road and the residents of Southold pay Suffolk County taxes to maintain county roads however they see fit. They have the obligation here.”
Residents emphasized the fact that many of their homes serves as buffers to Route 48 and have suffered severe damage from storms.
“Our houses should not be protecting these roads,” said Harry Bashian, who lives two houses west of the Sound View inn and restaurant complex. “Buffers, blockades we are because we are taking damages, but if people decide to not fix their houses anymore because they’re fed up with it or they can’t afford it, it’s going to be a lot bigger issue because we’re not there anymore.”
Mr. Bashian went on to say that to his home suffered over $250,000 worth of damage from the most recent storm. He said his bulkheads collapsed and he is concerned the next storm will leave him without a house.
Hashamomuck Cove residents said they want “skin in the game” and are willing to help in any way to get this project approved. They suggested creating a tax district and reaching out to other entities, possibly the Suffolk County Water Authority or PSEG.
“What we’re asking for is your support for the program,” cove resident Kate Phelan said to the board. “We don’t know how to do this; we hope you do, or we can help you.”
Mr. Russell also said that the financial aspect is not the only thing to consider, and the board will have to have a discussion about dealing with private property.
Top photo caption: Debris along Hashamomack Cove in Southold about a week after winter storm Grayson. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)