Ralph Confessore’s house sits on the beach in Quogue. So, after being hit with several powerful storms and hurricanes in recent years, his concerns about the beach—and the vulnerability of his Dune Road home—have risen along with the water levels.
But after attending Saturday’s educational forum on a proposed beach nourishment project in his hometown, Mr. Confessore admitted that he still does not know if the project—now expected to cost between $12.6 million and $15.7 million, and intended to widen all of Quogue’s 2.7 miles of shoreline—is completely necessary.
“I went in thinking one thing, and now I’m not so sure,” he said immediately following the 90-minute presentation, which focused on the science behind other beach nourishment projects, and was attended by approximately 40 village residents.
Prior to the meeting, the first of three parts of a “Summer Seashell Series” being sponsored by the Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation, which is pushing for the work to be completed, Mr. Confessore said he did not think such an expansive beach nourishment project was needed.
Saturday’s forum focused on the science behind the project, specifically why Quogue could be a prime location for beach nourishment, and how such projects are engineered. Two experts—Jay Tanski, a New York Sea Grant coastal processes and facilities specialist at Stony Brook University, and Dr. David Basco, a civil engineer who has worked on nourishment projects for many years—highlighted similar projects across the country and offered their opinions on scientific studies that support dredging sand from offshore locations and pumping it back onto local beaches.
Dr. Basco pointed to a $125 million beach nourishment project in Virginia Beach that was completed in 2002, a year before Hurricane Isabel struck the coast there, packing winds in excess of 100 mph. By his estimates, the beach nourishment work saved taxpayers some $80 million in damages.
He also noted, however, that such beach building projects should not be thought of as a one-step solution. “You can’t simply fix a road and forget about it,” he said, comparing infrastructure upkeep to beach nourishment work. “You have to maintain it.”
Earlier this year, workers completed a massive $26 million beach nourishment project along six miles of beach in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack Village. That work, which is being funded almost entirely by oceanfront property owners through the creation of a special taxing district, has been pitched as a 10-year project, meaning that more work will be needed down the road.
Both experts in attendance Saturday also noted that Quogue, if the Village Board ultimately decides to go forward with the project and widen the beach by about 60 feet, has access to a large amount of sand that sits just off the coast, pushed there by the waves and tides. That sand, they said, could be pumped onto the village’s beaches.
An application that seeks to replenish the sand along the entire coast of Quogue is now being reviewed by the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Quogue Village Board, however, still has not decided if it will move forward with the project, or how it would be financed.
Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation officials have also declined to discuss how the work would be financed, though members have previously suggested that it should be paid for by all village residents and not just those who own property along Dune Road.
Questions about the project’s financing were not answered Saturday and, in fact, were prohibited during the ensuing question-and-answer session by Marjorie Kuhn, the president of the Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation who also owns a home on Dune Road. The nonprofit, which is made up mostly of homeowners on Dune Road, has been lobbying for the project for months, previously securing approval from the Quogue Village Board to apply for the necessary state permits. Thus far, the group has spent approximately $100,000 on the application process.
After listening to the success of the Virginia Beach project, some village residents nodded in approval while others, including Mr. Confessore, appeared to be more confused. He asked the experts why Virginia Beach was being used as a model of success when such work, if approved in Quogue, would be done on a barrier island.
“Are we trying to save the dunes and beaches, or are we trying to save the homes on Dune Road?” Mr. Confessore asked. “If the barrier is there, why should we protect it and not the homes?”
The question, which was directed to Dr. Basco, went unanswered. He did note, however, that he would investigate more cases in which nourishment projects were completed on barrier islands. He also noted that he began researching Quogue’s situation only about a month ago, and shared his email address with those in attendance, explaining that he would try to answer questions not covered during Saturday’s forum.
“All problems are site-specific, so I might not be up to speed on the answers right now,” he said. “But this is not going to get better naturally,” he added, referring to the condition of the shoreline.
Mr. Tanski estimated that Quogue could lose another 3 or 4 feet of coastline by 2050. He also pointed out that Long Island is well-suited for such nourishment projects because there is plenty of displaced sand lining the floors of the ocean. Those areas are often used as “borrow sites” for beach nourishment projects.
Though he said he could not offer specific answers about the proposed Quogue project, Dr. Basco noted that, depending on how it is completed, he sees no reason why the village could not dredge sand from about a mile off its coast for the work. “That would depend on the materials used and the condition of the borrow site,” he added.
Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist with First Coastal Corporation in Westhampton Beach, helped pull together the application now being reviewed by state and federal agencies. He also served as a moderator for Saturday’s meeting.
“This is such an important conversation that we must consider,” Ms. Kuhn said before the forum.
The second forum in the Summer Seashell Series is scheduled for Saturday, July 19, starting at 5 p.m., in Village Hall. Organizers have not yet said who the guest speakers are or what issues will be addressed. The final forum in the series is slated for Saturday, August 16, at 10 a.m., at the same location.