For years, people who have been concerned about the health of Goldsmith Inlet, on the Long Island Sound in Peconic, have attempted to remain neutral about the effect the one jetty to the west of the inlet has on the health of the inlet.
Residents who live to the west of the jetty in Peconic Sound Shores insist it should remain in place, protecting their waterfront homes as sand builds up to the west of the jetty. Meanwhile, the folks who live east of the inlet have long contended it is causing erosion in front of their homes. It’s been a legal quagmire that has lasted decades.
The Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet has spent the past few years with its nose to the grindstone, squarely between the warring parties, helping the town and the county perform studies of the bathymetry and health of the interior of the inlet, staying out of the war surrounding them.
In September of 2010, the Southold Town Board shelved a draft environmental impact statement it had already paid to conduct, which examined whether to leave the jetty alone, shorten it by one third or shorten it by one half.
At the time, town board members said the jetty had already deteriorated to the point where the last third of the jetty wasn’t even operating as a jetty, and was letting sand through.
On Tuesday, March 25, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell asked the board to decide whether to update and adopt that environmental report.
“If we’re going to do the update, we have to accept it,” said Mr. Russell at the board’s morning work session. “It would be accepting something we paid for, which was finalized in 2009 but never adopted.”
Hugh Switzer of Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet pointed out on Tuesday that a study of the bathymetry of the inlet completed last fall said a funnel created by the topography of the single jetty, the shoreline, and the entrance to the inlet is “just trapping sand at the entrance to the inlet,” deteriorating the quality of the inlet’s ecosystem.
“The inlet has been filling with sand and is becoming increasingly polluted,” he said. “We know the cause of the problem now. We have the scientific data.”
Mr. Switzer recommended that $75,000 remaining from the grant to do that study be used to do the engineering work on building a jetty on the eastern side of the inlet.
He said in-kind matching funds required for that grant had already been covered by work done by volunteers for Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet.
But Peter Terranova, one of the most outspoken residents of Peconic Sound Shores, said he believed the 2009 environmental impact statement on shortening the jetty already said that shortening the jetty “would have absolutely no impact on issues facing Goldsmith Inlet.”
“But it would have a very detrimental effect on Peconic Sound Shores,” he added. “I would encourage the new town board members to go over the old documentation…. A lot of people have invested money in their homes.”
Town Councilman Jim Dinizio said he has 15 letters sitting on his desk that say the jetty is causing erosion in front of their houses to the east of the inlet.
John Betsch, of the riparian rights group Southold Voice, said the Army Corps of Engineers, which is doing a study of the Hashamomuck Cove area to the east of Goldsmith Inlet, now believes the jetty is part of the problem.
“Look at the homes [east of the jetty]. Waves are smashing up on houses. Some to the east of Peconic Dunes are on the cusp of falling in. This is all caused because of the jetty,” he said. “I think we should re-look at it. I think a lot of politics got involved. I think it should be opened up and looked at.”
Robert Dunn, who lives near the inlet and has become active in the debate over the inlet in the past couple years, said he believes a decision should be made.
“This needs to be decided,” he said. “Finish something. You get to a point where some people are going to have to compromise, one way or the other. This thing is hanging out ther, and it just never gets done.”
“I agree,” said Councilman Bob Ghosio. “Elected officials tend to keep kicking the can down the road. This has been going on a long time. I, for one, would be interested in reopening the EIS and working toward some kind of decision.”
Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he plans to reopen the discussion at the board’s next meeting April 8.
“Once we’re in open session, we can address all the issues,” he said. “In the interest of transparency, we’re not going to make a decision today.