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Asharoken raises concerns about high cost of dune replenishment

The Village of Asharoken as seen from James

The Village of Asharoken as seen from James Street in Northport, Monday, July 6, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

A federal proposal to restore Asharoken’s sand dunes has been criticized by residents who object to a public access requirement on private beaches, but a new concern has emerged: The high cost of the project to the village of about 650 people.

While the Army Corps of Engineers project would bring more than $20 million in federal and state funding to the village, Asharoken would be responsible for 10.5 percent, or $2.5 million, of the initial phase of work — more than its annual $2 million budget.

The village would also have to pay 15 percent of costs over the rest of the life of the project, or $8.7 million.

The expense has village officials looking to Huntington and Suffolk County for help, Mayor Greg Letica said Tuesday.

“We’re being asked to pay for the whole [local portion of the]project ourselves,” he said. “We’re being asked to then open up our public property. We feel that’s a tremendous burden.”

Using 2015-2016 assessment rates, a typical Asharoken resident would pay about $3,500 in annual village taxes. As proposed, the dune project would add $891, a 25 percent increase, to that homeowner’s annual taxes for 10 years. Then it would add $366 per year for the next 40, according to village estimates.

“If our efforts to broaden the sponsorship base have fallen short, then it is incumbent on us to turn to lobbyists, legal counsel, whatever expertise we can find, for their assistance,” said Rob Holmes, an Asharoken resident, at the Feb. 2 village meeting. “We cannot afford to proceed as is.”

The Corps proposal would replenish sand dunes to protect the vulnerable 2.4-mile stretch of Asharoken Avenue.

Many contend that the need for reliable access to and from Eatons Neck — a section of Huntington that sits at the end of Asharoken Avenue, with a population of 1,400 — could be critical leverage in finding new financial support.

“If you have an emergency and that road is impassible, it’s an issue,” said Christine Ballow, of Eatons Neck. “The children can get stuck on the other side at school. It’s scary.”

Many Eatons Neck residents have supported Asharoken in its ongoing issue with the Army Corps, calling for more funding and opposing public access.

“We’re a much bigger population than these homes in Asharoken,” Ballow said. “We’re a much larger voting bloc.”

Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone is prioritizing the importance of the road and the safety of all the Huntington residents in Eatons Neck, spokesman A.J. Carter said in an email.

Petrone told Letica that he would consider exploring different funding options if the project benefits “all town residents,” Carter wrote. “The supervisor believes that town public dollars should not be spent to preserve private property.”

Petrone advocated for limiting public access in a Dec. 16 letter to Corps officials. Despite growing concerns about higher taxes, Letica said public access remains the biggest concern for most residents.

By the numbers: Asharoken dune restoration

The Army Corps of Engineers’ Asharoken dune restoration project would bring millions of dollars in federal and state dollars to the village, but would also mean significant local costs for about 650 residents.

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Initial Cost of Corps’ preferred project: $23.7 million

Village Share: $2.5 million

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Projected cost of replenishing sand over 50 years: $57.8 million

Village Share: $8.7 million

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The Village of Asharoken and Army Corps of Engineers

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