As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to meet Monday with Southold residents to discuss what can be done to shore up Hashamomuck Cove, Southold Town representatives have some reservations over the feasibility of the Army Corps’ proposed plan.
The project would consist of an 8,500-foot long, 6-foot high berm along a stretch of Hashamomuck Cove on the Long Island Sound long battered by storm waves and home to numerous private homes, a Southold Town bathing beach, a restaurant and motel.
But there are still many unknowns in the $13.5 million project, one of the biggest of which is who is footing the local share of the bill.
“The federal government is committed at 65 percent. Their share of the money has been allocated, but they need a local sponsor for the other 35 percent,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell at the Southold Town Board’s Sept. 6 work session. “They don’t define what local sponsor means — the town, the county or the state? Quite honestly, I think this is unrealistic at a town level.”
“The local sponsor is the biggest hurdle,” he added. “I don’t know what role the county and state can afford to play.”
Mr. Russell said utility companies have a vested interest in the area, which stretches alongside a thin strip of land along Route 48 between Hashamomuck Pond and the cove which could be breached in a storm.
He added that residents and property owners along that stretch of land could bear part of the cost through a special taxing district.
“They’d be the direct beneficiaries of beach nourishment,” he said.
Also of concern to the town is the requirement for public beach access every half-mile along the 1.5 mile stretch of beach.
At the western end of the project is Southold’s town beach, which could easily meet the requirement if the town made non-resident beach stickers available there (if federal money is used for the project, it needs to be open to anybody, not just town residents).
But the rest of the project is a patchwork of private property, with a few slivers of land owned by the county in between.
Town Engineer Michael Collins said he’s heard suggestions that beachgoers could park their cars across Route 48 on Albertson Lane and then cross the street to access a public walking trail, but that prospect doesn’t sit well in an area filled with speeding traffic that has already been the site of several pedestrian fatalities.
“Our only option might be to buy a house and tear it down,” he said. “The central portion has the most access issues, and we might need to consider eminent domain if there’s no interest from a private property owner.”
Mr. Collins added that the local sponsor of the project would also be responsible for 50 percent of the cost of renourishing the beach after the project is completed.
The Army Corps, in their report for the project, estimated renourishment would cost $4 million over 50 years, an estimate based on adding 7,250 cubic yards of sand every five years.
“We all know how dynamic The Sound can be,” he said. “It could be $21 million instead of $4 million over a 50 year period. We could theoretically be doing it more often.”
“Technically, it’s feasible, but will it last?” he added. “How to pay for it and the public access are the sticky issues.”
The Army Corps of Engineers’ public meeting on the project will be held at Southold Town Hall next Monday, Sept. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. The proposal is open for public comment through Sept. 30.