Health & Environment

2013 Civic People of the Year: Ron and Doris McGreevy

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Doris and Ron McGreevy of Mattituck survey the stretch of Long Island Sound beach east of Mattituck Inlet that will be rebuilt with material dredged from the inlet.

Residents living east of Mattituck Inlet have long watched their sand-starved beach recede, thanks to two stone jetties that block the sand’s natural drift.

The jetties not only contribute to coastline erosion but also raise navigational safety concerns for commercial and recreational vessels entering and leaving Mattituck Inlet, which is a federal waterway under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In May, the Army Corps accepted responsibility for the jetties’ inadvertent effects and agreed to dredge the inlet, deepening the waterway and using the dredged material to rebuild the heavily eroded area of the Sound beach to its east.

This was a project more than 15 years in the making.

While most neighbors, boaters and nearby business owners supported the project, one Mattituck couple spearheaded the effort to get it done, mostly by pursuing government officials to push for funding — no matter the mood in the nation’s capital.

“They fought hard over the years, starting at the local level, eventually concentrating their efforts toward Washington … refusing to take no for an answer,” said Dave Bergen, a former Southold Town Trustee.

For their role in pressing political leaders and the Army Corps to act, Ron and Doris McGreevy of Lloyds Lane in Mattituck have been named The Suffolk Times’ Civic People of the Year.

Doris McGreevy, who credits her husband with doing “most of the work,” said the journey began while she chatted with two of her neighbors one random afternoon.

“We said, ‘We have to do something about this,’ ” she recalled. “We saw the inlet was blocking the flow of the sand, and it was one of the reasons we have extreme damage to our beach.”

The McGreevys said they wanted the Army Corps to be held accountable and believed that going through the legislative process would make it happen.

“We felt that we had enough trust in that process to go that route,” Ms. McGreevy said. “We felt if we engaged our representatives, and they understood the situation, they would then go through the political channels they knew to come up with the remedy.”

In choosing that route, the couple took on a more than decade-long battle, but never lost sight of their goal.

In May, the federal government agreed to dredge the inlet under Section 111 of the 1968 federal River and Harbor Act, requiring the Corps to mitigate erosion caused by its projects. In December, the Army Corps of Engineers finalized a $2.2 million agreement with Port Jefferson-based contractor Village Dock Contracting Inc., said Chris Gardner, an Army Corps spokesman, adding that a project start date is currently being discussed.

The dredging work, which calls for the removal of close to 100,000 cubic yards of material from the inlet, will both widen and deepen the inlet channel to a depth of 11 feet below mean low tide. The dredged sand will be placed on the beach in a 20-foot-wide strip about 4,500 feet long from the eastern jetty, according to Congressmen Tim Bishop’s office.

“I was first exposed to the project while running for the very first time, in the summer of 2002,” Mr. Bishop said. “It was brought to my attention by Doris McGreevy. They were very informed and very forceful advocates. I am delighted they are going to be able to see the fruit of their effort.

“They worked very hard at this and I’m glad it is paying off,” the congressman said.

While sitting at his kitchen table last month, surrounded by notes, charts and environmental studies on the inlet, Mr. McGreevy received a call from an Army Corps of Engineers official, who informed him the contract had been finalized.

“I’m finally glad,” Mr. McGreevy said, looking out his bay window. “We’ve had a lot of disappointments along the way, but we persevered.”

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