Southold Town is again facing its perennial problem of what to do to keep Goldsmith Inlet, on the Long Island Sound in Peconic, flowing smoothly.
Southold Town Engineer Jamie Richter told the Southold Town Board in a work session Tuesday morning that he’d like a town worker with a small track excavator to spend between one and three days this fall removing a section of a sand spit on the east side in order to keep the inlet from closing up.
Mr. Richter said he thinks the inlet is flushing well, but the sand spit is moving toward a dune on the eastern side, which he said he was afraid would undermine the dune, causing sand to fall into the inlet and close it off from the Sound.
Last year, the inlet waters had scoured the eastern side of the dune so much that peat within the dune began to fall into the inlet, exposing abandoned leaching pools.
Town planner Mark Terry said he concurs with the idea of removing a small section of the spit, but said Suffolk County, which owns the property, should come out and have a look at the situation before the town does the work. He added that a study currently underway on the bathymetry of the inlet recommends the spit remain.
“It is a protective feature,” he said. “The channel naturally kicks to the east. The county property is eroding.”
Environmental advocate Lillian Ball, who works with the Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet, said she believes the town should do no more than shave off the end of the spit, giving the inlet a little more room to the west.
“The spit functions like a second jetty. I would be very loathe for them to split it,” she said. She added that she thinks there should be some kind of stone revetment to shore up the eastern side of the inlet.
Mr. Richter said he doesn’t want to put any stones there until there is some consensus on whether the town wants to pursue putting a second jetty on the east side of the inlet.
The town still has not accepted its own 2010 environmental report on whether to shorten the jetty to the west side of the inlet by a third, due to ongoing political and legal tension between property owners on either side of the inlet over the best course of action for protecting both the health of the inlet and the property rights of homeowners on both sides.
Fishers Island Town Justice Louisa Evans, who sits on the town board as its sixth member, wanted to know why the town can’t simply cut off the end of the dune, allowing the water to flow straight in to the inlet.
Ms. Ball said the dune is part of a maritime freshwater interdunal swale ecosystem, which is “globally rare,” and the only place on the North Fork where that ecosystem exists is between Goldsmith Inlet and Horton Point.
Town water engineer Michael Collins added that once the dune vegetation is destroyed, it takes years to grow back.
“It’s a pretty special place. It’s a very unique ecosystem between those two dunes,” said Ms. Ball. “I agree with everybody that it needs to be protected.”
The Town Board agreed to do the work, at a cost of between $4,000 and $6,000