On Friday morning, two Southampton Town Trustees along with Marty Shea, chief environmental analyst for the town, and Robert Young, a coastal geologist, toured the Peconic Bay beachfront along Red Creek Road in Hampton Bays.
Walking along the beach, it was clear that Hurricane Sandy had taken her toll — cliffs sat crumbled, bluffs and bulkheads desecrated and at least two summer houses were destroyed.
Stunned by the damage, Trustee Fred Havemeyer said that the town trustees have a lot of work to do.
The tour, according to Eric Shultz, president of the trustees, was the first step in deciding on what actions need to be taken to remediate the area.
What was clear as the officials walked was that a comprehensive policy will be needed, especially when it comes to shore-line hardening structures, such as bulkheads.
Both Shea and Young immediately pointed to damage sustained by the cliffs, especially the ones that sit on either side of a bulkhead. The damage, Young said, can be in part due to the bulkhead itself, as the structures push wave energy off to neighboring properties.
The trustees have long frowned on shore-hardening structures and according to Shultz, trustees will be carefully examining any emergency bulkhead rebuild applications that come in as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
So far, trustees – who govern the beach front from the high water line – have received 10 such bulk head applications.
Those applications, Shultz said, will be expedited. However, there will be a review process to ensure that the replaced bulkhead will not pose a threat to neighboring properties.
The trustees will also explore other methods, including native plantings and boulders, said Shultz.
After touring numerous properties after Hurricane Sandy, Shea pointed out that properties that were shored up with native plantings seemed to weather much better because, he said, native plantings absorb wave energy.
As to docks, Shultz said any resident with a dock damaged by Hurricane Sandy can apply for a rebuild, provided they have an existing permit and the dock was built within the last ten years. Older docks will be subject to a new application process due to new regulations regarding pressure treated wood.
So far, the town has received 50 such applications.
And when it comes to dune restorations, residents can apply for a free 30-day permit.
However, when it comes to rebuilding some living quarters along Red Creek, Shea said the conservation board there will be taking a hard look at applications.
For example, pointing to two structures that were severely damaged, Shea said they will most likely not be allowed to rebuild with electric and plumbing.
"They can probably just use them as storage in the future," said Shea, noting that residents wishing to build on the bluffs are basically playing Russian roulette with their property.
"What people don't always understand is that we have rules in place not only to protect the environment, but also their property," he said.
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