Southampton Town officials are calling for immediate emergency assistance for Dune Road as a man-made sand berm placed in front of the Shinnecock Commercial Fishing Dock by Suffolk County has almost all been washed away.
Saturday’s high tide caused a washover of the barrier island roadway, one of several to occur since an Oct. 10 nor’easter first overtook the dune there.
The latest washover underscores the need to immediately prevent a breach in the area, which protects the second-largest fishing port in New York, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. The county began dredging 90,000 cubic yards of sand in November, but Schneiderman estimated about 75% of it is gone.
“We’re not going to get through this winter the way it is,” Schneiderman said. “We need immediate emergency assistance.”
The area is vulnerable to erosion because the jetties along the Shinnecock Inlet disrupt the natural flow of sand.
The road was closed through Saturday night until town highway crews scooped the sand out of the road to rebuild the berm. A harbor seal traveled through the open section of dune and became trapped near the dock after it was closed off, Schneiderman said. Representatives from the Riverhead Foundation rescued the animal, but said it appeared healthy, he said.
Suffolk County crews are expected to arrive on Monday, Schneiderman said.
“Suffolk County has and will continue to provide support to assist with the town’s efforts,” said a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We also continue to coordinate with State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and State Department of Environmental Conservation as well as the federal government to facilitate a long-term solution to this problem.”
Federal officials such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) have called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reposition a nearby ocean dredge and pump hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand to rebuild the beach. But that process could take months and an interim measure will be needed.
One solution, Schneiderman said, would be to move 200,000 cubic yards of sand from a nearby area known as Ponquogue Point. The town would need assistance to fund that project, he said.
“What I’d like is both funding and permission on an as-needed basis to rebuild the berm until the federal dredge arrives,” Schneiderman said.
The road was passable Sunday morning and Dune Road restaurant Sundays By the Bay remained open, according to owner Stephanie Oakland. Stakeholders such as the Oakland family and commercial fisherman are watching the issue closely.
“We think we’re good and we’re out of the woods, and then all of a sudden, it happens again,” Oakland said. “We’re doing the best we can to stay open.”