As Goldsmith Inlet continues to fill with sand in a fast-changing, dynamic environment, water quality has suffered.
Recent sampling in the area, which includes nearby Autumn Pond, shows poor oxygen levels, likely a result of limited tidal flow of seawater into the inlet. Fish can’t enter the area to spawn and high water levels in Autumn Pond threaten to introduce contamination from nearby septic systems.
Call it a case of dredging déjà vu.
“It fills up, we go and we dredge if possible, and then we wait for the next storm to close it in again, rinse and repeat,” said Glenn Goldsmith, current president of the town’s Board of Trustees. “We need more tools in the tool box,” he said, echoing calls from Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell for a more comprehensive solution to decades of problems.
During a Town Board work session last Tuesday, Mr. Russell urged the board to consider a renewed look at dredging options. “Nothing’s going to fix the problem completely, forever, but we have to do something,” he said, adding that the town’s current approach is insufficient. Mr. Goldsmith agreed, calling the town’s current approach a “Band-Aid” on a larger issue.
According to Mr. Russell, the town spends approximately $6,000 annually for an excavator to dig out the mouth of the inlet. “We only move enough sand to keep the water moving in and out,” he said Friday.
If a more permanent solution exists, Mr. Goldsmith said it will require coordination between multiple agencies and levels of government.
With just over a year until their current Army Corps of Engineers permit expires, officials may review alternatives that lead to a more long-term solution, including an expansion of the scope and location covered in the permit.
In order to expand the scope, town engineer Michael Collins said more information would be required to be submitted to the state Department of Environmental Conservation and may require outside engineering help.
Mr. Russell said he’d like to see the county involved with working towards a longer term solution as well. “They have a stake in the game,” he said.
While the board may develop a scope and begin considering professional firms, Councilman Bob Ghosio expressed some hesitation at funding a study, the cost of which remains unknown.
“We’re going to spend a lot of money on a study to find out that it’s going to be a $2 million or $3 million project that we’re not going to be able to fund to fix anyway,” he said.
Mr. Collins said any solution will likely include regular dredging and maintenance. “That will never change,” he said.
Other Town Board members said periodic dredging could have a more meaningful impact if other factors are addressed. “To sit back and just keep it the same is not a good idea,” said deputy supervisor Jill Doherty. “We need to keep trying.”
Editor’s Note: Since last week’s meeting Congressman Lee Zeldin has announced expedited completion of an Army Corps. feasibility study and, “if justified, the preconstruction of this project, which will focus on improving navigation” at Goldsmith Inlet.