Confusion reigns in Town Hall over erosion studies

Hashamomuck Cove in September 2010. (Credit: Beth Young, file)
Hashamomuck Cove in September 2010. (Credit: Beth Young, file)

Some North Fork residents say they are confused about the scope of a $2.6 million feasibility study being done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Initially, they understood it was intended to investigate the impact of erosion along 15 miles of coastlines stretching from Orient Point to Goldsmith Inlet. But that is not the case. 

Confusion about the study has even caused local elected leaders to question the Corps about its plan. On Wednesday, the day after a sometimes contentious discussion Tuesday at Town Hall, federal officials explained the plans to The Suffolk Times.

Army Corps spokesman Chris Gardner said the 15-mile area was the focus of an earlier study, called a reconnaissance study, which is the first phase of any project. Those findings were released in September 2008. Using information from that study, Mr. Gardner said, Hashamomuck Cove in Southold was identified as a priority area where the Corps would conduct its current feasibility study.

“That reconnaissance study was broader-based and was used to identify things to study further,” Mr. Gardner said. “From the reconnaissance study, Hashamomuck Cove was chosen as somewhere to conduct a study to determine if there is a feasible federal project.”

“It’s not to say the study shrank or anything like that,” he continued. “The other areas that were in the reconnaissance study could presumably be studied separately.”

But Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said Wednesday that “the project has always been a Hashamomuck Cove project.”

He said he had been able to secure federal funding for the Hashamomuck study because of the potential for erosion there and the fear that storm waters might breach a section of County Road 48.

“That’s what swung the Corps to act,” he said. “It was the most powerful argument that I could make to bring the Corps to the table.”

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Hashamomuck Cove study area/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

During Tuesday’s Southold Town Board meeting, several residents expressed confusion about the project and asked why their shorefronts were apparently dropped from the study.

“The [Army Corps] fact sheet says that the area was included,” said George Aldcrost of Peconic. “If it is knocked out, I would like to know how come.”

The current Army Corps fact sheet about the Hashamomuck Cove project has not been updated since February, according to the federal website.

Supervisor Scott Russell said more than a dozen residents have requested that the town ask state Department of Environmental Conservation, which issues permits for the project, to expand the current feasibility study to include Goldsmith Inlet. Mr. Russell said the town would not be acting on that request.

“If you were to look to expand the scope, you’re talking about significant delay [to the study],” he said, adding that the Army Corps hopes to schedule its first public meeting in November.

Mr. Bishop said residents’ requests to include Goldsmith Inlet in the study could conceivably be met, noting that “if it requires more money, the money would be the responsibility of the state DEC and Suffolk County.”

That’s because Goldsmith Inlet is a locally maintained inlet, he said, whereas federal funding was allocated for the Hashamomuck Cove study because of its potential impact on transportation.

In response to requests from the Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet that it be included, Mr. Bishop said, “We have reached out to both the state DEC and Legislator Al Krupski. The DEC has said they will consider making the request to the Corps.”

Mr. Krupski said Tuesday he supports expanding the study.

“We are working with the congressman,” he said.

“Being very familiar with the area, I agree that Goldsmith [Inlet] is a very dynamic place, and if they are going to study any kind of erosion on the Long Island Sound, that should be the place.”

Hugh Switzer of the Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet, which had asked the Town Board for its support in expanding the study area, said, “Since [the study] is local to Southold Town, Southold Town taking a formal position requesting that it be included would help in that process.”

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