Timing is everything, they say. And for residents of the North Sea Beach Colony erosion control district, the timing of the county’s dredging plan for the nearby North Sea Harbor Inlet is working out to their benefit.
“This project is really a project born out of opportunity,” Aram Terchunian of First Coastal Corporation, the chief environmental analyst for the project, said during the Southampton Town Board’s October 1 work session.
Town officials had gone out to bid on a beach nourishment project for the erosion control district — for the beach that runs approximately 1,400 linear feet and overlooks Little Peconic Bay, near the terminus of North Sea Road — but voted last week to reject the bids, which came in over budget.
Concurrently, officials learned that Suffolk County planned to dredge nearby North Sea Harbor and determined the dredge materials could be trucked over to the beach.
The town created an erosion control district for the neighborhood association in 2018, with residents there voting to tax themselves the cost of replenishing their disappearing beach.
At the time, officials estimated the beach was losing 7,500 cubic yards of sand per year.
The town went ahead with the bond and residents, in their tax bills, are carrying the costs associated with the project, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman explained. There was a project developed, which would have taken 15,000 cubic yards of sand from Towd Point and moved it over to the North Sea Beach area using a hopper dredge.
The bids came in too high, and the board voted to reject the bid and do the project, he said, “in a slightly different manner.”
The county will be out there dredging the creek and placing roughly the same amount of sand on a property adjacent to the creek, known as Holmes Hill. This project envisions taking the sand deposited in front of that property and using payloaders to push it down the beach.
“It actually will be less money than the original project,” the supervisor said. “It will also eliminate concerns residents of the Towd Point area had about removing material and will leave money left over for future work in that area.”
“What came out of the county dredging last year, and what’s coming this year is more sand than we had anticipated, which is a good thing,” Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray said. “This is an opportunity to do the project at a little bit of a lesser cost for the taxpayers.”
Some of the sand will be left on Holmes Hill to benefit the property there.
The county would drop the sand right in front of North Sea Beach Colony if they had the equipment that would allow for it, Mr. Schneiderman noted. “But this other property is obviously much closer and that’s why it’s the beneficiary of all the sand,” he said. They have a pretty healthy beach there already, he pointed out, whereas the North Sea Beach Colony has little to no beach.
The town doesn’t have the final figures yet, but the tax impact to the taxing district could change, Ms. Murray said. The bond has already been authorized and the residents have already been taxed one of the five years of the bond’s life. This would be the second year. If the project comes in lower than the bond amount — $340,000 — the town could give money back to the residents.
Mr. Terchunian explained that the bid responses were “disappointing.” He said the Druckenmiller family, which owns the Holmes Hill property where the sand will first be placed, have been “excellent partners.”
Changes in the last 10 to 12 months, after the first bid numbers came through, spurred rethinking the project. The county purchased a bigger dredge that would allow it to move more materials a farther distance. Last year, the county removed 15,000 cubic yards from the channel and placed it in front of Holmes Hill, resulting in a 5,000 cubic yard stockpile that can be used for the beach colony project.
The county’s change of equipment means they’re going to be able to dredge another 15,000 cubic yards this year, Mr. Terchunian said. “What we’re looking at is an opportunity we didn’t have a year ago,” he said.
The project is time sensitive, because the Suffolk County dredging window opened on October 1 and closes mid-January. There’s a limited amount of time to get the work done and the county has slated to go to work before the first of November.
Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni wondered if the dredging project would encompass moving the ebb tide delta out of the channel. That’s something residents of both the beach colony and Towd Point are concerned about. The delta has actually created a deep water, swift moving channel near the beach, he said. “Is that where the sand will be coming from?” he asked
Some of the sand will be coming from there, Mr. Terchunian advised, but the authorized channel goes deeper into North Sea Harbor and bulk of the material will come from the interior part of the channel. The consultant believes the channel should be extended farther to the north.
Councilwoman Julie Lofstad, who was the sole dissenter when the erosion control district was formed, citing a potential tax hardship for area residents, abstained from last week’s vote.
Some 87 percent of the residents voted in favor of creating the district, which is composed of 62 properties.