Southampton Town officials are monitoring a recently rebuilt Hampton Bays dune that was overtaken by the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month as Suffolk County completes an emergency beach replenishment project.
Dune Road, the 18-mile stretch from Cupsogue Beach in West Hampton Dunes to the Shinnecock Inlet that is home to multimillion-dollar summer retreats, took a beating during an Oct. 10 nor'easter. It was hit hardest near the Shinnecock Commercial Fishing Dock on its eastern end, the second largest fishing port in New York State after Montauk.
The damage prompted Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman to issue a state of emergency for the area. He lifted it on Monday.
An unusually high tide coupled with storm surge driven by 15-foot waves pushed a stretch of dune east of the Ponquogue Bridge into the roadway during the storm.
Schneiderman said the washover had potential to breach the barrier island and cause infrastructure loss that would have cost millions of dollars to repair roads, utilities and structures. Suffolk County workers aided by the state descended on the area and, using 2,500 cubic yards from a county sand stockpile, quickly rebuilt a 750-foot dune stretch.
“You potentially could have destroyed the bulkheading at the [Shinnecock] commercial dock; you could have ended up with a full breach, with that area becoming an island,” Schneiderman said. “We caught it early.”
County and town crews were out again during an Oct. 16 coastal storm depositing an additional 1,000 cubic yards of sand.
A washover in that area of Dune Road is not unexpected. Jetties along Shinnecock Inlet prevent sand from being deposited on the nearby beach, starving the coast and requiring periodic replenishing. It was last overtaken during superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“It’s not a surprise this is an area that has repeated damage because it’s so narrow,” said Aram Terchunian, coastal geologist with First Coastal, an environmental consulting firm in Westhampton Beach. “We didn’t know what to expect, but we know to expect something.”
In response to the narrowing beach, the town suspended off-road driving in that area last spring, said town trustee president Ed Warner Jr.
“I literally watched that dune for eight years get smaller and smaller and smaller because of foot traffic,” said Warner, a commercial fisherman.
The recently built man-made berm should hold during the next few weeks under normal tidal conditions. Suffolk County plans to dredge 90,000 cubic yards of sand from a nearby channel to bolster the dune, work expected to be completed in the next few weeks. Long term, the county has also requested the Army Corps of Engineers use an ocean dredge to add an additional 800,000 cubic yards of sand to build up the beach.
“It could be a month before we see a significant amount of sand and we can breathe a sigh of relief,” Schneiderman said.
Town and county officials hosted a breakfast Wednesday at Oakland’s Restaurant & Marina, which is near the new dune, to thank workers.
THE SANDS OF TIME
Oct. 10: A coastal storm causes severe erosion near the Shinnecock Commercial Fishing Dock on eastern Dune Road. Suffolk County crews are aided by state workers through the night to restore a 750-foot section of dune with 2,500 cubic yards of sand.
Oct. 16: Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman reissues a state of emergency, and crews return to deposit an additional 1,000 cubic yards of sand.
Early November: Suffolk County is expected to dredge 90,000 cubic yards of sand to rebuild the dune and beach.