Town says beaches are not yet ‘pristine’

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Erosion has claimed much of the beach at Norman Klipp Park in Greenport.

While Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer, Southold Town beaches will not be in tip-top shape until the season’s official start on June 22, according to deputy director of public works Jeff Standish.

Town maintenance crews have worked for several months to clear debris left behind by superstorm Sandy and a series of winter storms that battered the North Fork this past year. Although hazardous debris has been removed from the shore, “it’s not pristine,” Mr. Standish said.

Dramatic erosion remains an issue for the town’s Sound and bay beaches, he said.

In January, the U.S. Senate approved roughly $5 billion in federal aid to help mitigate the damage. In Southold, much of the funding provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency was allocated to cleaning up and filling in portions of lost beach with sand, Mr. Standish said. However, restrictions imposed by the state Department of Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers have made it more difficult to obtain permits for traditional beach restoration techniques, such as dredging, he said.

Bay beaches were hit particularly hard by Sandy’s storm surge, according to town engineer Jamie Richter.

The beach at Greenport’s Norman Klipp Park, better known as Gull Pond, extended out only 10 feet following the storm. But even six months later, Mr. Standish estimates only 30 feet of shoreline remains during high tide.

“There’s not much of a beach,” he said.

In the short term the town is focused on preserving what’s left of the shoreline.

“My objective is getting the beaches up and running with the little resources we have,” Mr. Standish said.

In the future, Mr. Standish hopes to move the guardrail at Klipp Park back to widen the beach. The town is actively working with FEMA to obtain additional federal aid to offset costs of that and similar projects, according to officials.

“We are not going to dump money into that project until we hear back from FEMA,” Mr. Standish said, adding that he hopes the project can be completed before the fall. At the moment the town is not looking to develop long-term solutions to the continuing problem of shoreline erosion.

“Living on the water you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” town Trustee David Bergen said. “All we can do is come up with projects to help prevent erosion.”

The town is working on a coastal erosion plan that would address factors such as rising sea levels and the current infrastructure’s effectiveness in protecting the coastline, said Supervisor Scott Russell.

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