In an election year, the East Hampton Democratic Committee is taking on the erosion that threatens the town's beaches, shores and the properties that line them.
At a press conference at the in East Hampton on Monday, Jean Frankl, the committee chairwoman said, “We are very concerned about the devastation to property that has occurred in these storms and we’re very worried about what it portends for the future." She said the committee was focusing their attention on the issue to ensure that “the maximum is done to help affected residents.”
The position of East Hampton Town supervisor, now held by Republican Bill Wilkinson, is up in 2011. The two Democrats on the board, Councilman Pete Hammerle, who was in attendance at the press conference, and Councilwoman Julia Prince are both up for re-election.
“We also want this protection of individuals interests to be consistent with the long term protection for our coasts and our shores that are provided in the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program," she continued.
The meeting focused primarily on Soundview Drive in Montauk, where some houses have lost their foundation. Frankl said “We are undertaking a thorough look at options in all the recently affected areas. We have started with Soundview in Montauk because of the extreme urgency of that situation.”
Ramesh Das, a member of the committee spoke about one possible idea that would create a special Erosion Protection Tax District for the residents of Soundview Drive and Captain Kidd’s Path. Residents of that area would essentially vote to tax themselves to secure the funds for a unison effort to fight erosion. “I think the encouraging part of that is that it probably would seem to federal agencies a great willingness to hold up their end of some real mitigation project there and it might be a door open to the Army Corps," he said.
Such a tax district has been suggested before, most recently by Steve Kalimnios, the owner of the Royal Atlantic Motel, after it suffered extensive erosion in the post Christmas storm. When reached by phone on Monday afternoon, Wilkinson said the idea compliments his own ideas.
Brad Loewen spoke about his efforts when he was an East Hampton Town Councilman in conjunction with the effort of Congressman Tim Bishop's office to get help from the US Army Corps of Engineers. “We managed to get the feds to pay for some dredging in 2009 but they didn’t show up until 15 days before the close of the dredging season.” He continued, “They moved somewhere around five or six thousand yards.”
Loewen said, “We got a promise from them that they would be back for at least 45 days and they would be moving at least 30,000 yards which is essentially be an extension of the 2009 permits.” He continued, “I think that it was just ignored until just recently when this erosion problem happened and these people’s houses are sinking into the ocean and now everyone’s in a panic. Well panic doesn’t matter because it still takes the process.”
Loewen has since left that office but it was agreed that the committee will look into what happened with the process that began in 2009.
Wilkinson's response on Monday afternoon was that "Brad Loewen's process is an oxymoron." He said, "There was no performance management during Brad Loewen's terms." By his own admission, Wilkinson said, the former councilman hadn't been able to complete the Army Corps project.
"For the democratic committee to critique this administration, when we stood toe to water on the bulkhead during each one of those storms, when we stood on the bulkhead as the waves were crashing 25 feet up in the air, for them to critique our work in an emergency situations from the village at the Golden Pear, paints a perfect picture," Wilkinson continued.
"We have done more than any administration has done," he said, pointing to other erosion-related issues such as the dredging of the Montauk Harbor channel for the fishing fleet. "For these guys to take this on as an issue -- bring it on."