Health & Environment

Dredging makes all the difference for waterfront residents

CARRIE MILLER PHOTOS | Mary Drum’s cabin in Mattituck in early October (top) and as it appeared Jan. 10.

Just three months ago, water could be heard rushing beneath the floorboards at Mary Drum’s Marratooka Point summer cabin. The beach under her cabin had once been dry sand but, as with many other cabins lining the thin peninsula on Great Peconic Bay west of Deep Hole Creek, that sand had been sucked away and carried to the east with every breaking wave.

In December, the county Department of Public Works dredged Deep Hole Creek, along with many other waterways, not only improving navigability but also redepositing the sand washed away by the water and providing stability to the vulnerable homes nearby.

Marratooka Point homeowners are among many throughout Southold Town who are finally seeing erosion relief after storms Irene and Sandy. The town Trustees make recommendations to the DPW about which waterways are most in need of dredging — and on which side of each the removed sand, or dredge spoils, should be placed. Homeowners, however, often disagree about where those spoils should go.

“We had heard from the homeowners to the west as well as homeowners to the east [of Deep Hole Creek],” said former town Trustee Dave Bergen, who helped make this season’s dredging selections. “[Those to the east] of course also wanted the material, but because of the extensive damage caused by Sandy and Irene and the vulnerability of the houses … we decided to place it to the west of the entrance.

“I would imagine that next time, the material consideration will be for homeowners to the east,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ms. Drum’s cabin, along with about 10 others along Marratooka Point, now sits soundly on a freshly refurbished beach.

“I am delighted,” said Ms. Drum, whose primary residence is in Mattituck. “I am delighted that [the spoils] went our direction. I don’t know how far they pumped it or how long it will last, but at least it’s on our side.”

The cottages on Marratooka Point, each known by a name — like Dunes or Bay Breeze — rather than a street number, date back to the mid- to late 1920s and were built by members of the Wickham family who inherited the bayside property.

Each cottage holds decades of family memories, with many owners hoping to create more in the future, Ms. Drum said.

“We’ve had a wedding reception, and one of my granddaughters had the rehearsal dinner there,” she said. “It’s just a very idyllic place that’s different. I call it camping with convenience.”

Diane Jeffrey travels from her home in Chicago to enjoy summers on the North Fork. She said she’s been staying at one cabin or another since she was 5 years old. Her father eventually bought the cottage known as the Dunes, which has since been passed on to her.

“We are in so precarious a situation,” Ms. Jeffrey said. “We’d lost so much and over the course of the last 15 years, it was almost like being on a houseboat at high tide. You’re sitting on your deck and there’s water running right underneath,” she said. “We’re happy the powers that be listened to all of us who called and explained.”

Mr. Bergen said several eroded locations were significantly improved by this season’s dredging, including the east side of Brush’s Creek, where residents also have rejuvenated beaches leading to their homes.

“Another very successful dredging was Corey and Richmond creeks,” he said, adding that dredging at all seven locations scheduled has been completed, just a couple of weeks shy of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s dredging deadline.

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