Peconic jetty project nixed

Town Board members have decided the Goldsmith Inlet jetty will not be shortened, saying downsizing it would do little to control sand clogging the inlet or erosion to the east.

A plan to shorten the jetty at Goldsmith Inlet on Long Island Sound in Peconic is dead in the water, after Southold Town Board members balked this week at completing an Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

Some members of the board were concerned that shortening the jetty would not help with environmental issues at the inlet, and some were worried about the potential cost of the project. Only Supervisor Scott Russell was in favor of pursuing the project, which he said would ease erosion on the east side of the inlet.

The town has been debating the best method to control shoaling in the inlet and erosion on the beach to the east of it for more than 20 years.

The single 335-foot jetty on the west side of the inlet was built in 1964 as a replacement for two jetties that had stood at either side of the inlet’s entrance since the mid-1880s. Members of the Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet, who are working to protect the environmental health of the clogged waterway, believe that the use of just one jetty is a major reason why the inlet has repeatedly filled with sand within days after it is dredged. Just this year, in late winter, the town dredged it only to see it refill with sand.

In August 2009, the Town Board voted to go ahead with an environmental review of the plan to shorten the inlet, with councilmen Vincent Orlando and William Ruland voting no. Town Supervisor Scott Russell said that a shortened jetty would allow more sand, which currently collects on the west side of the jetty, to reach Kenny’s Beach to the east, where there is serious erosion from scouring. The town has completed a “scoping document” for the environmental review, specifying the issues it must address, but has not continued with the work of preparing the study, called a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

On Tuesday, only Mr. Russell was in support of continuing the project when he initiated a discussion at the Town Board’s weekly work session.

“There’s a lack of functionality of the last third of the jetty. It’s not a silver bullet but it’s certainly a step in the right direction,” he said of shortening it. “A little bit of sand is an important step for the people on the east side. I’m ready to move on a reduction of one third.”

“We don’t have the funds for the Goldsmith DEIS. If we’re going to have to dredge it every year anyway, we should do a bigger dredging. That’s money better spent than trying to change the jetty,” said Mr. Orlando at Tuesday’s meeting.

The town was promised a $400,000 matching grant from the state for the project several years ago, according to town engineer James Richter. The town would have to match those funds to receive the money.

Board members were also concerned that changes to the jetty, which is deteriorating and allows sand to wash between the rocks and into the inlet, might not change conditions to the east.

“It’s no longer a functioning jetty,” said Councilman Al Krupski. “It’s my opinion that it’s not going to affect the inlet at all either way. Sand will still be available to plug up the inlet either way. If it would help with the health of the inlet, I would be all for it.”

“I agree with Al and Vinnie,” said Councilman Ruland. “I wasn’t in favor of this from the beginning.”

“Unless you get a plan in place to constantly do a transition of sand, you’re never going to solve the problem,” said Councilman Chris Talbot.

Mr. Russell was quick to point out that rocks taken from the last third of the jetty would be used to rebuild the remaining two-thirds.

“If there’s a hands-off approach here, there should be a hands-off approach for eternity,” he said. “We’re done with this discussion of the jetty.”

Mr. Russell added that he still plans to work with the Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet on improving the health of the inlet.

“If we had a piggy bank full of money, it would be a different story,” said Mr. Orlando. “Mother Nature is unpredictable.”

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