Still exposed weeks after Superstorm Sandy and a subsequent nor'easter struck the East End, a rusty steel bulkhead sticks out more than 9 feet high out of the ground in Water Mill.
The bulkhead is at the easterly end of Flying Point Road, near the Mecox Cut and The Water Mill Beach Club. Southampton Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer said the bulkhead is typically covered to within 4 or 5 feet of the top, but the storms in October and November changed that.
Running parallel north of the bulkhead, there are three rows of snowfence, in a zigzag formation, which will, hopefully, capture sand and rebuild the dune.
New bulkheads have been prohibited in Southampton Town for some time. Havemeyer said Friday that this particular bulkhead pre-dates the ban. It was the result of eight simultaneously bulkheads permits, approved in 1984, one for each property the structure stands in front of, he said. Even then, bulkheads were frowned on, and this one was only approved after litigation, according to Havemeyer.
Havemeyer said a lot of sand is missing after the fall storms. “The houses would have been missing if the bulkhead wasn’t there," he said. "Obviously, it’s a place where houses shouldn’t have been built.”
Havemeyer said that as the high watermark moves more landward each year, the beach in front bulkheads gets smaller, until there is no beach left and they became "wet bulkheads." At certain times, when the tide and other factors line up, the beach in front of this bulkhead may be impassable for weeks, he said.
In photos taken Dec. 28, the waves crashed within feet of the bulkhead.
This bulkhead, which he estimated is 20 feet tall, may be one of the last permitted bulkheads in Southampton, Havemeyer said.
“It’s an antiquated way of doing things,” the trustee explained. “At that time there wasn’t the scientific knowledge on bulkheads that there is now.”
Besides what happens to the beach in front of the bulkhead, Havemeyer noted the accelerated erosion to the east end west of oceanfront bulkheads.