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Asharoken officials want clarification on beach access demands

Asharoken officials want more clarification from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on public access and parking requirements that the village would have to agree to in order to receive $23.7 million to restore its depleted dunes.

The North Shore village sits on a long, narrow strip of land in the Town of Huntington. Its sand dunes are depleted, leaving the village vulnerable in the next major storm.

Federal law requires public access wherever the Corps puts down sand, but many village residents oppose allowing public access on their private beaches.

Corps spokesman Michael Embrich said the agency agreed, following a conference call with village and town officials Tuesday, to draft a letter and again outline its requirements for the project.

The agency has said the project won’t move forward unless village officials agree to five public access points — with parking at each — every half mile along the project’s 2.4-mile stretch.

The agency had asked Asharoken to provide a public access plan by early September, but will give the village more time to respond so they can first discuss the mandates at their Oct. 4 meeting, Embrich said.

Mayor Greg Letica said at a village meeting on Sept. 6 that the public access requirement was “ludicrous.”

Village officials have argued that protecting Asharoken Avenue — the village’s primary road — would yield a sufficient public benefit to merit federal funding. The road is the only land evacuation route for the roughly 1,400 residents of Eatons Neck, a section of Huntington at the end of the road.

Corps officials have repeatedly rejected that argument.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone, who was on the conference call last week, said it may be time to consider other options.

“If things cannot be worked out between the village and the Army Corps … the Army Corps should consider an alternative project focusing on shoring up the section of Asharoken Avenue that washes out in major storms,” Petrone said in a statement. “The goal is to keep residents of Asharoken and Eatons Neck from being cut off from emergency services during and after major weather events.”

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