Southold Town Board concerned about Hashamomuck Cove project costs

Considering what it would cost to build and maintain a beach replenishment project at Hashamomuck Cove, Southold Town Board members said they are not keen on signing on to using public money to bolster the shoreline.

The Army Corps of Engineers project would create a 25-foot berm along the cove. That scale would cost $14.56 million and requires local sponsors, which could be a combination of the state, county and town to front 35 percent of the cost.

The state nor county have shown interest in being sponsors, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said at Tuesday morning’s work session. If the town was the only sponsor, it would take on more than $5 million for the initial project cost, according to town engineers.

Even if the town took on 5 percent of the cost, “It’s still a lot of money,” Mr. Russell said.

He said he has a hard time spending taxpayer money on the project. While a segment the project also includes Town Beach, the beach has been replenished with dredged sand from the Cross Sound Ferry the past few years.

“What this project does is basically looks to restore private property and I can’t justify spending taxpayer money on any of that,” Mr. Russell said. “That’s my position.”

If the project were completed, it would require the local sponsor to cover annual operation and maintenance costs, which would include removing all trash and debris along the 1.6-mile stretch of beach. If the replenished beach erodes again, the town would be responsible for reshaping it each year so that the new berm is back to the height it was when the sand was first put there, according to town engineer Michael Collins.

The Army Corps project also calls for replenishment every five years after the initial build-up it proposes.

A roundtable discussion with Hashamomuck Cove homeowners, the town, state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Army Corps, as well as the Suffolk County Water Authority and Department of Public Works is planned for Wednesday morning, according to a letter the town sent to homeowners.

The meeting could either “bring more clarity or make the numbers more opaque,” the supervisor said.

“We’ve had a lot of roundtables,” Mr. Russell said. “This issue now is what are we going to do as a Town Board?”

Town Board members were also wary of the project cost to the town.

Councilman Jim Dinizio said looking at the numbers right now for base project cost, “I don’t care if there’s one local [sponsor] or 15, it’s still a lot of money.”

“When you look at these numbers, the commitment there is just way too high,” Councilman Bob Ghosio said.

“It’s not like ‘one and done’,” Councilwoman Jill Doherty added, noting annual maintenance costs.

Councilman William Ruland called the project a “moving target” the town is not equipped to deal with.

“One thing is obvious to me: This project is bigger than the Town of Southold, it’s bigger than the County of Suffolk, it’s bigger than the state of New York,” Mr. Ruland said. “This is what the Army Corp of Engineers is for.”

In terms of County Road 48, which was breached in the early January winter storm, Mr. Russell said it’s up to the county to reinforce it.

The Southold Town Board of Trustees drafted a letter to present a Wednesday’s roundtable, expressing that they do not support the project. The Trustees cite concerns about long-term beach nourishment with sand. Instead, they recommend an extensive rock revetment at Hashamomuck Cove, offering some protection for the road and allowing for a modest beach.

An “ad hoc approach” with sand placement with no means to hold the sand in place, or separate rock revetments that are not part of an extensive unit “seems destined for failure and is a poor use of Town or governmental resources,” according to the Trustee’s letter. “The project as proposed is not the answer.”

[email protected]