Experts urge Quogue Village to invest millions to renourish its beaches

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Experts warned last week that the beach at Quogue is doomed to the same fate as what once happened to West Hampton Dunes if a reconstruction costing $12 million to $15 million is not undertaken soon.

Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist with First Coastal Corporation in Westhampton Beach, reported at a meeting in Manhattan last week that the beach in Quogue is losing an alarming 3 to 5 feet of shoreline a year. He said that the Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays is to blame for the coastal erosion, because sand that naturally migrates along the beachfront, replenishing the beaches, gets trapped in the inlet current, and the movement is interrupted.

Mr. Terchunian’s company helped to reconstruct the West Hampton Dunes beach during the mid-1990s after it was virtually destroyed by flooding caused by erosion.

During the meeting, which was held at the Manhattan law offices of Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft on Thursday, May 8, Mr. Terchunian and other environmental officials suggested that the best option for Quogue in the long term is to spend between $12 million and $15 million on a renourishment project, dumping tons of sand on the beach.

“We have to figure out how to fix this beach in Quogue right now,” Mr. Terchunian said during the meeting, which was called by the Save the Beaches and Dunes Foundation, a non-profit group formed by residents of Quogue, many of whom own property along Dune Road. “It hasn’t reached the ultimate crisis that West Hampton Dunes did, but it is heading that way.”

But since the recommendation for renourishment could cost the village between $12 and $15 million, Quogue Mayor George Motz said that Village Board members need more time and information before they make a decision on the expenditure.

The mayor reported that, if the village opts to do it, the project would cost double or triple the amount the village has spent on every capital project over the last few years.

“All other recent projects combined have cost between $5 million and $6 million,” the mayor reported. “We need to be prudent how we spend the [village’s] money.”

The meeting was called, in part, by Quogue resident and Save the Beaches and Dunes Foundation Vice President Sir Harold Evans, who said he is in favor of renourishing the beach and wants to get people to start thinking about potential solutions. At the beginning of the meeting, he started the conversation by asking, “What the hell can we do about the situation we find ourselves in?”

Other experts at the meeting—such as engineering project manager Steve Keehn of Boca Raton, Florida-based Coastal Planning and Engineering—agreed that a reconstructed, engineered beach is the answer. He recommended that Quogue Village trustees undertake plans to rebuild the beach by bringing in between 70 and 200 cubic yards of sand per linear foot. He estimated that 200 cubic yards per linear foot would widen the beach by 200 feet.

“Quogue needs to be renourished … you need to build your beach wide enough that it can absorb the storm,” he said.

Another option for a short-term fix could be to renourish the beach again, as was done earlier this year to offset the losses of sand and dune from the April 14, 2007, nor’easter. Part of the funding for that renourishment came from $105,000 in federal aid to replace 2,500 cubic yards of sand lost and to replant beachgrass. Additional funding came from individual homeowners along a stretch of the beach from 140 to 176 Dune Road, each of whom contributed approximately $20,000 to replenish sand on the beachfront along their properties.

The replenishment effort was enabled by a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation permit that was issued in June 2007, which is valid until March 2017.

At the Thursday night meeting, Save the Beaches and Dunes Foundation Treasurer Bob Friedman implored Mayor Motz to at least start the application process for another round of beach renourishment. He estimated the permit would cost between $150,000 and $200,000, which would be picked up by the foundation.

“It’s small potatoes in relationship to keeping Quogue the way it should be,” Mr. Friedman said.

Another public official who attended the meeting and has experience dealing with erosion—West Hampton Dunes Village Mayor Gary Vegliante—agreed that something needs to be done.

Mr. Vegliante agreed with Mr. Terchunian about the direction the beach is heading in Quogue, comparing it to the situation in West Hampton Dunes before the crisis struck. “I don’t want to sound like the Grim Reaper, but that’s what can happen,” he said. “Our erosion started similar to where Quogue is today.”

Mr. Vegliante reminded the approximately 60 people at the meeting that West Hampton Dunes was underwater 12 years ago but is now the “blueprint for coastal reconstruction.”

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