Public discussions about the fate of Goldsmith Inlet, which feeds into the Long Island Sound at the north end of Mill Road in Peconic, often center on the health of the inlet or the desire of residents of Peconic Sound Shores to the west of the one jetty at the inlet to keep the jetty there.
But this Tuesday, the Southold Town Board got an earful from people who live to the east of the jetty, in the area surrounding Kenney’s Beach and McCabe’s Beach, whose waterfront homes are facing severe erosion and who believe the jetty has got to go.
In 2009, Southold had prepared an environmental impact statement on reducing the length of the jetty by either 1/2 or 1/3, but a resolution to accept the results of that study failed in a split vote in 2010.
Board members had said at the time that they believed the jetty, built in 1964 to shore up the properties to the west, was already in such disrepair that it was not functioning as a jetty, but a recent report on the health of the interior of the inlet says that a funnel created by the jetty and a sand bar is pushing sand into the inlet, choking the ecosystem that relies on regular tidal flushing.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who had advocated in 2010 that the report be accepted, said at a meeting two weeks ago that he believes there is now political will on the board to accept the report.
It will cost $27,500 to update it before it can be accepted, he said, since the shifting sands surrounding the inlet have changed since 2010, a change that has been especially dramatic over the course of this past winter.
Kenney’s Beach Civic Association President John Betsch urged the board to accept the environmental impact statement on shortening the jetty at their evening meeting April 8.
“The jetty affects the entire area,” he said. “I keep hearing diatribes that camouflage reality. Do not accept the actions of a few vocalists from the Peconic Sound Shores area.”
Amy Agnesini, who has lived near Kenney’s Beach for three decades, said she and her neighbors have been planting seagrass and doing everything they can to shore up the beach near their houses.
“I’ve seen homes moved way back toward the road. I’ve seen people rebuild their decks and foundations,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to save it.”
John Hess of Kenney’s Road said the shortening of the jetty was long overdue.
“How many more hundred feet were there from Goldsmith’s to Hortons?” he asked. “A lot of hundreds. We’ve had lawsuits, studies engineers, scientists, you name it, ordering the town to do something. Nothing was done.”
“I may not live long enough, but we’re going to lose the lighthouse. That’s another asset going away,” he added. “For 33 years, I’ve been hearing the same story. Please do something.”
Susan Geitz said her family has lived on Leeton Drive, just west of the Peconic Dunes Summer Camp, for 60 years.
“When I was a teenager, I used to ride in Bobby Conway’s beach buggy from Horton’s Point to the inlet,” she said. “We had 100 feet of beach in front of our house. We were in favor of the jetty because we felt bad about our neighbors at Peconic Sound Shores. They were in danger of losing their homes. They didn’t feel the same way about us.”
Ms. Geitz said she has already rebuilt the bulkhead at her house twice after it was damaged by storm waves.
“I love my house. I don’t want to lose it. It breaks my heart to see what happens,” she said. “To take down part of the jetty isn’t going to ruin their houses [in Peconic Sound Shores]. You could build another row of houses there, the sand is so deep. It would be a godsend for us to get some of that sand back.”
“How can we pay taxes on property that is gone?” she added. “Literally, it will be gone.”
Mr. Russell said the New York State Department of State had committed $1 million to the jetty shortening project, but the grant money had been taken away when the town did not adopt the environmental impact statement.
“If it is adopted and updated, we will certainly push the state department of state to see if money becomes available,” he said. “This town board said we can’t ignore this anymore.”