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New demands may kill federal dune plan, Asharoken mayor says

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica notified residents Friday that a $23.7 million proposal to restore the North Shore village’s depleted dunes is all but dead in light of new demands from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I believe that we have reached the end of the road with the ASDRP [Asharoken Storm Damage Reduction Plan],” Letica said in an email to residents late Friday.

Asharoken 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.

The Army Corps project has been controversial among residents because federal law requires public access anywhere the agency puts down sand, and many oppose allowing the public to access their private property.

Letica said in his email that the Army Corps announced a broad, new expansion of its requirements in a conference call on Tuesday, and that the demands were so extreme that the project has probably hit a dead end.

“I do not see us moving forward with this project unless public sentiment changes radically,” Letica said. Letica and other village officials did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.

Letica said the Army Corps was now requiring the village to commit to condemning property before the study or project would be completed. Another new mandate, he said, would require Asharoken to commit to going through with the project — including public access — before the agency will even complete the project’s feasibility study, a prerequisite to the project that has been 15 years in the making.

That is a dramatic shift from what the Army Corps has previously told village officials.

It is unclear how much has been spent on the long-awaited study, or if the village would be expected to pay its portion of an incomplete study.

“The whole premise of doing a feasibility study is to come up with a feasible plan. No feasible plan was delivered,” said Rob Holmes, a resident and former member of the village’s now-defunct Asharoken Storm Damage Reduction Plan Committee. “That’s bad faith negotiation.”Officials with the Army Corps and the New York DEC could not be reached.

Letica said the village is waiting for a letter from the Army Corps outlining the new requirements, and will ask village residents for their input based on that information. But he indicated that the fate of the project was bleak.

“I, for one, will not agree to condemn property as a condition to complete the feasibility study and complete the project,” Letica said.

Some residents reached late Friday said they were happy to learn that the latest demands from the Army Corps appear to have put an end to a contentious proposal.

“I’m so happy that it’s over with, and I don’t have this over my head all the time,” resident Steve Mirabile said.

Some said they were less concerned about potential damage in future hurricanes than they were about the damage that the Army Corps project would do to their homes and community.

“If we lose it (our home) to Mother Nature, then so be it,” resident Nadine Dumser said. “But we don’t want to lose it to the Army Corps.”


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