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Asharoken asks more comment time for beach proposal

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica, center, takes questions from

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica, center, takes questions from residents Tuesday night, Dec. 1, 2015, at the monthly meeting at Asharoken Village Hall. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Asharoken officials said they have asked the Army Corps of Engineers to extend the public comments period for a dune restoration plan that would bring millions of dollars to the village while opening up beaches to public access.

The public comment period for the $23.7 million plan is scheduled to end in January, but village trustees are seeking an extension into mid-February.

“The Corps is considering the request from the Village,” agency spokesman James D’Ambrosio said in an email, adding that officials expect to announce a determination on that next week at a public hearing in Northport.

Mayor Greg Letica said trustees will notify Corps officials that they are unhappy the Corps proposal released Monday was not the one village officials selected in July as their “preferred” plan after the Corps gave them a choice among five.

“We are absolutely going to contest it,” Letica said at a village meeting Tuesday night.

The proposal would add an initial 600,000 cubic yards of sand to the North Shore isthmus’ most vulnerable 2.4 miles of shoreline. It would also replenish the beach with an additional 80,000 cubic yards of sand about every five years, with a total projected cost of $57.8 million.

In addition to the sand, the proposal would add or restore three groins — structures intended to reinforce the beach against erosion — and maintain a fourth at the northwestern end of the shoreline.

The plan the trustees preferred didn’t include groins.

“The Corps is required to put forward the alternative that reasonably maximizes net benefits,” Ron Pinzon, an Army Corps project manager, said Tuesday before Asharoken’s meeting. “We did advise the village that that recommended plan is subject to change, based on agency and public review.”

Pinzon said that, to minimize erosion issues, the proposal would stagger groin length, starting with the northernmost one, from shortest to longest.

Pinzon had said officials tentatively went with a different plan than the similarly priced one that village officials chose because, after further examination, engineers were concerned the sand would wash away more quickly without the groins.

Letica said village officials have not given up on finding a political alternative to making residents’ privately owned beaches public in exchange for millions in federal money to fund restoration. Federal law requires land to become public when the Corps uses taxpayer money to restore or improve it.

Residents spoke in opposition and in support of the project.

“My house could fall into the sea before I would have the federal government or the state government trespass on my property,” resident Steve Mirabile said.

Resident Stephanie Quarles disagreed.

“It’s imperative that we work out the project with the Army Corps of Engineers,” she said. “I think it’s our only chance to preserve this village.”

Officials have said Asharoken Avenue — the main road that runs through the village and the sole land evacuation route for the people of Eatons Neck — is potentially at risk when a big storm hits.

The Corps is holding an informational meeting on the plan at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Northport High School, 154 Laurel Hill Rd.

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