Word that the county is preparing to dredge Napeague Harbor has prompted those affected by erosion to raise questions and once again ask for town officials' help.
The Suffolk County Department of Public Works has informed town officials that it is renewing permits with the Department of Environmental Conservation to dredge the west channel in a letter on Jan. 17, though no start date has been discussed. Several residents of the erosion-plagued area in Amagansett told the East Hampton Town Board at a meeting on Thursday that they think the east channel is the one that needs attention.
They believe dredging in the harbor, while necessary for a healthy environment and for navigation, has been done in the wrong channel and compounded erosion, particularly around -- 150 feet of beach and road lost in 33 years. In addition, residents want to see dredge spoils be used to replenish the sand lost instead of being placed on Hick's Island, to the northeast of the areas left crippled by erosion in the past three decades.
"The east channel, in my mind, is really no more," Steve Graboski said, adding that a kayak can barely navigate through.
Graboski pointed to a report from outgoing Natural Resources director Larry Penny that chronicles the history of the inlet. The east channel was historically the deeper of the two, but when the west side was re-opened in the 1950s, it scoured the shorelines and ate up the oyster beds.
Virginia Bennis, who lives on Mulford Lane, told the board, "I think the county dredging that channel again is a disaster waiting to happen." She asked that a hydrologist look at historical photos to understand the littoral drifts.
Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, also a boat captain, agreed that dredging the west channel again, "ultimately may make the situation worse."
A year ago, Lazy Point homeowners went before the asking for emergency permits to restore their sand, following aNor’easter over Christmas 2010. Graboski .
Graboski and other Lazy Point residents asked that town officials help in at least convincing the county that this time around the sand and gravel dredged from the harbor should be diverted to the properties along Mulford Lane. They also say the volume needs to be increased from approximately 37,000 cubic yards to as much as 130,000, but they are doubtful the county would amend its DEC permits for the upcoming dredge.
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said the decision as to where the spoils should land lay within the jurisdiction of the town trustees, but he was trying to understand the county's standpoint. "Why would somebody with expertise insist the west channel be dredged instead of the east?," he said.
Van Scoyoc said the answer was simple: "The west channel is currently considered the navigable channel."
On Friday, East Hampton Trustee Clerk Diane McNally said she agreed the east channel should be dredged -- and for more than just water circulation purposes. Either way, she said, the trustees are pursuing discussions to use the dredge spoil for beach nourishment.
Theresa Quigley said she would also address the question with the Peconic Estuary Study Group, which was meeting this week.