More than 200 people turned out Monday night to a public hearing organized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in Quogue over a proposed plan to place 1.1 million cubic yards of sand along the village’s ocean beach.
Only about 30 people who attended the hearing spoke, and most, including many residents of Dune Road, were opposed to the project.
There was hearty applause, however, for well-spoken opinions on both sides of the issue.
The Village of Quogue has asked the DEC to approve its plan to excavate a 100-acre area of ocean bottom several thousand feet off the Quogue oceanfront, placing the sand along the 2.7-mile stretch of the village’s ocean beach. The project is slated to cost nearly $15 million, but, if it decides to go forward with the plan, Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius told Monday’s crowd that the village has not yet decided how to pay for it.
Mr. Sartorius said the village has not yet decided whether or not to go forward with the project if DEC permits are granted.
DEC Deputy Regional Permit Administratory George Hammarath told the crowd that the permit process, in the works for several years, was delayed due to the heavy workload at the DEC in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
Concerned Citizens of Quogue board member Terry Young told the crowd that “the elephant in the room, in my perspective, is real estate values.”
He said that, while proponents of the project have argued that if their properties are destroyed by storm waves the village will not receive as much tax revenue, in reality only 7.5 percent of the tax base would be protected by the project. He added that the oceanfront properties are covered by federal flood insurance policies, and even if the buildings there are destroyed, they will be rebuilt and “won’t be off the tax rolls for long.”
“They would be rebuilt closer to the road, where they should have been built in the first place,” he added.
Tom Lawson said studies have shown that Quogue “has a strong beach not needing nourishing at this time,” and added that strategies such as scraping the beach, fencing and planting vegetation on the dunes has kept the beach strong.
“We should save our resources for a catastrophic event,” he said.
Kevin McAllister of Defend H2O, who lives in Quogue, echoed that sentiment.
“It’s not in need of nourishment,” he said of Quogue’s beaches. He added that New York State projections of sea level rise put the sea level at 2.5 feet higher than it is now by mid-century, and 6 feet higher by 2100. Facing such enormous coastal changes, he said, must be done in a cohesive manner along the entire South Shore, not in piecemeal efforts by village government.
“The principle of any plan is coastal retreat,” he said.
Mr. McAllister added that he believes about a half-mile stretch on the east side of the village could benefit from nourishment, but sand being placed at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays will naturally act as a “feeder beach,” drifting along the coastline toward Quogue’s problem spot.
Concerned Citizens of Quogue member Lynn Joyce, who lives on Dune Road, said she believes the beach is healthy.
Save the Beaches and Dunes board member Pieter Greeff said he believes the dredging and sand placement project “is a practical matter.”
He said the village is “just inches above sea level” and could easily be inundated by storm tides.
He added that the jetties at Shinnecock Inlet push much of the sand that should be deposited on Quogue’s beaches out into the ocean instead.
Blair Kessler, an engineer, said he believes the permit application is incomplete.
Richmond Gardiner didn’t mince words.
“Don’t mess with the ocean floor,” he said. “We’ve been protected for over a century by a sand bar. When the sand bar is strong, the beach is healthy.”