When Southold Town workers dredged a spit on the eastern side of Goldsmith Inlet in Peconic just before Thanksgiving, the work they did was very similar to the dredging that was done last winter.
But recommendations from an ongoing study of the inlet released earlier this week say the spit protects the inlet, and should only be changed if it begins migrating eastward, causing waters of the Long Island Sound to dig into a dune on the east side of the inlet.
One advocate for the health of the inlet told the town two weeks ago that she believes any work done on the spit should be done in as limited a manner as possible, but after several neighbors of the inlet told the Southold Town Board this Tuesday that the dredging was more severe than they’d expected, town board members were quick to point out that the work was done exactly as they had planned.
“We discussed this issue two weeks ago. Everybody agreed to a plan. We adhered to a specific plan,” Town Supervisor Scott Russell told attendees at this Tuesday’s town board meeting. “I’m fully confident that what was done was exactly what we discussed at this meeting two weeks ago.”
Robert Dunn, who lives near the inlet, said he believes the town has already spent about half a million dollars on dredging and studies of the inlet over the past decade, and “we just haven’t made any progress.”
Lillian Ball said she was on site with town engineer Jamie Richter during the work done last week when she noticed that the track excavator doing the work was on the side of the beach that it wasn’t authorized to go on. She added that he was regrading the beach as he went along, “fluffing up” sand and making it easier for that sand to be washed back into the inlet.
“They are tractor drivers. They’re not looking at drawings. There’s no flagging done and no delineations,” she said. “I think the unintended consequences are really frightening and I would rather see no dredging done at all.
Ms. Ball suggested the town send four workers armed with nothing more than shovels to do the work, as is done when Georgica and Sagg ponds are cut out to the ocean on the South Fork.
“Have at it. Save the taxpayers money,” said Councilman Chris Talbot.
Louise Harrison, who lives near the inlet and formerly worked for the DEC’s permit compliance department, said the town’s permit that she’s seen (which was for 2012) said dredge spoil could only be placed to the east of the inlet, where it would replenish the beach, but some dredge spoil was placed to the west of the inlet, where there is already an abundance of sand.
Mr. Russell said the sand on the west side was placed above the area where it could be washed into the inlet by the tide.
“The majority of the material was placed to the east of the inlet,” he said.
Ms. Ball said she is particularly concerned that Mr. Richter may chose to dredge the interior of the inlet before the dredging window closes in mid-January, when the town’s current DEC permit doesn’t allow them to dredge according to the recommendations of the new study.
The study, prepared by EDesign Dynamics, was made public on the town’s website on Tuesday. It’s available here.
The study recommends the spit remain in place and that a section of the channel 400 feet in length in the interior part of the inlet be dredged to a depth of 12 feet. This section includes a sand “sill” which has formed in the inlet and is keeping the tidal flow out of the inlet from equaling the flow into the inlet.
The recommendations have not yet been accepted or reviewed by the town board.
According to the recommendations, “When the spit is removed by dredging, the system leaves its dynamic equlilibrium state and a portion of the sand “bypassing” the inlet is diverted from its easterly course by the clockwise flowing eddy currents and deposited near the mouth of the channel.”
“In its mature state, the spit plays the dual role of partially restoring patterns of littoral drift and protecting the channel from wave exposure and effects from moderate energy storms that might otherwise carry sediment into the channel from the Sound,” according to the study, which also recommends that “if after further monitoring it is determined that sediment migration into the inlet is not adequately mitigated with the presence of the mature spit, then remedies that include permanent structural measures could be considered that alter the geometry at the mouth of the channel and reduce the funneling effect.”
There has been some talk in recent months about the installation of a second jetty on the east side of the inlet, but, according to the study, “interventions on this scale will also require significant capital investment and a rigorous regulatory review and approval process and for these reasons are not included as part of EDD’s recommendation.”
“EDD does not recommend removal of the spit unless conditions arise that appear to threaten the integrity of the dunes to the east. if this is the case, and the spit has pushed the channel so far to the east that it is encroaching on the dunes there, then intervention is appropriate,” they add.
The firm also suggests armoring the base of the eastward dune to protect it from the Sound if the spit expands.
The firm recommends the town seek amendments to its DEC permit to conduct the dredging of the interior of the inlet, which would need to extend further south than is currently allowed. They also recommend dredging when the tide is low and the pond is emptying, carrying any suspended sediment out to the Sound.