“I am alarmed as the dickens,” Southampton Village Trustee Bill Hattrick told Patch Friday, as he described his concern over the devastation another hurricane could bring to the village's oceanfront homes if preventive measures are not taken.
“I don’t want to wake up one day and 25 mansions are gone," Hattrick said. "That will be terrible for the whole community and our real estate world will collapse.”
The village's shoreline took a beating during Superstorm Sandy in areas such as Little Plains, Wyandanch and in front of the Southampton Bathing Corporation, he said. He advised people take a look for themselves. “It’s unbelievable what you will see.”
It is time for permanent solutions, Hattrick said. “I’m not interested in snow fences at this point — put them in — but that’s just a band-aid at this point.”
He said, admittedly, that he is not a coastal engineer, but he believes that depositing boulders along the coast or putting in new groins and jetties is called for.
“You can dredge, you can truck sand ..." Hattrick said, "but I'm hoping someone who is an engineering genius can say there’s somethings you can do that’s more permanent.”
Hattrick stopped short of saying that Southampton needs more bulkheads, which are no longer permitted by the Southampton Town Trustees, because they have been shown to cause more severe erosion to neighboring properties and to shorten the beach as sand that is south of a seawall is lost to the ocean.
“In the long term you have to decide what's more valuable ... protecting that wide beach or one person’s house,” said Eric Shultz, the president of the Southampton Town Trustees.
Shultz said Friday that armoring the shoreline with bulkheads will be detrimental in the long term, but putting in boulders and groins could be beneficial if done correctly.
Placing boulders along the shore can be an effective way to break up sea energy without causing erosion the way bulkheads can, he said.
“The problem with groins and jetties is you have to do the entire beach,” Shultz said. That lesson was learned in West Hampton Dunes years back, he said, where the jetties stopped and Dune Road was severely breached during an intense storm.
Shultz said he favors "softer" solutions for beaches, such at the multimillion dollar project in the Bridgehampton and Sagaponack erosion control districts that involves trucking in sand to replenish the dunes and shore. The entire town needs a unified approach, instead of each village and unincorporated area doing its own thing, he said.
Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley was on the same page. He said there needs to be one solution all the way from Montauk to New York City.
“We need to do stabilization, and we need to not think in terms of one spot here and one spot there," he said. "We as Long Islanders need to think of an overall plan that protects our beachfront.”
Locally, one of Epley's major areas of concern is St. Andrew's Dune Church on Gin Lane. He said the 1879 church is particularly vulnerable and if it was lost it would not be a simple matter to replace.
Shultz said the Trustees would be happy to have their coastal consultant look into solutions for the village.
Epley said he plans to enlist coastal engineer Aram Terchunian of First Coastal to examine the village's beaches and suggest solutions, and the village is also hiring an aerial photographer to get up-to-date images of the state of the coast.
Hattrick said that while peril to mansions may not elicit everyone's sympathy, “I sympathize with anyone who is trying to protect their home."