Quogue Dredging Application Draws Questions About Economics

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Quogue residents voiced their concerns to the State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding an application that, if eventually approved by their village, would dredge some 1.1 million cubic yards of sand from the ocean bottom and redeposit it on the beach.

The state received between 75 and 100 comments on the application—which was filed by the village in October, even though the Village Board has not yet said whether it will go forward with the work—before the public comment period on the beach nourishment project closed on November 29, according to DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo. Although she did not specify what was shared in the written correspondence, Ms. Montalvo wrote in an email that “some of the comments expressed concerns about the project, including potential impacts.”

Quogue Village Mayor Peter Sartorius said a DEC official told him that most of the comments were related to the economics of the proposal, not the potential environmental impacts. The village has not yet stated how it would fund the nourishment work, which is expected to cost approximately $14.1 million, though it would most likely have to create a taxing district similar to the one now in place in eastern Southampton Town, where similar work has been ongoing along six miles of oceanfront since late October.

While he has not been privy to the comments, Mr. Sartorius said he anticipates that many of them will question how the project would be financed, which is not an area of concern for the DEC. He said the village, if it moves forward with the work, would have to evaluate its options and make a decision.

“It’s not a DEC issue, it’s a broader issue and it is, obviously, an issue that we will have to look into,” the mayor said about financing such work. “It certainly has to be considered by the village—it is a village matter—but I don’t think that it is something that plays a factor in [the DEC’s] decision.”

The application seeks permission from the state to pump sand off the ocean floor and onto the village beach, where it would be used to widen Quogue’s 2.7 miles of beachfront between 50 and 127 feet, depending on the severity of erosion in the area.

But the mayor maintains that the project, which is the brainchild of a not-for-profit group of Quogue residents called Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation, is not set in stone, adding that the village is still exploring its options.

Save the Dunes and Beach Foundation released a statement late Tuesday afternoon stressing the importance of beach nourishment because of what its president, John Post of Quogue, described as a constant flow of sand being eroded from the village beach on a daily basis. He also addressed concerns that an extended beach could be wiped away by a single storm.

“No one can predict with certainty how many years a nourished beach will remain healthy,” Mr. Post wrote. “However, wider, higher beaches and larger dunes will greatly improve protection to our barrier island and mainland when the inevitable storm hits. Pro-active nourishment will significantly lower the risk of a breach.”

So far, the organization has paid for all the costs associated with the proposal, including application fees and a 2012 study that outlines the parameters of the project. The group of primarily Dune Road residents has footed more than $100,000 in private funds since it first broached the topic of dredging with the village in 2010.

The foundation has said that all options should be on the table when looking at ways to fund a nourishment project. The strategy that is at the top of most discussions is the establishment of a taxing district similar to the one created earlier this year in Sagaponack, Bridgehampton and Water Mill to fund the $26 million beach nourishment project now under way there.

That suggestion, however, is unpopular with some in the village, including another not-for-profit, the Concerned Citizens of Quogue, which opposes the work. The group took out an ad in the November 7 edition of the Western Edition of The Southampton Press urging residents to voice their opposition to the DEC.

In a prepared statement issued three and a half weeks after the advertisement ran, Mr. Post said the ad was misleading and that beach nourishment is necessary for the security of the entire village.

“Healthy barrier beaches and dunes prevent an ocean breach from occurring, thus protecting the Quogue Village Beach, hundreds of homes, Dune Road and the mainland,” Mr. Post is quoted as saying in the earlier statement. “For those inland property owners who think that beach nourishment is merely to benefit oceanfront homeowners—even if those homes were not there, the dune barrier running along the Hamptons and [the] south shore of Suffolk, still needs to be adequately protected.”

Ms. Montalvo said the DEC will be in touch with village officials by the end of next month to discuss the next steps of the application process.

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