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Southold Town looks at measures to fight erosion, water pollution

Early January storm left a lot of damage behind, along with calls for new measures to address flooding and coastal damage, board of trustees say.

Serious erosion during an early January winter storm

Serious erosion during an early January winter storm damaged Southold Town Beach, including the parking lot, seen on Jan. 7, 2018. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The Southold Town board of trustees is calling for measures it says can address concerns over flooding throughout the town, coastal damages to bluffs and beaches, and nitrogen pollution in local waters.

While Southold has policies on coastal erosion in its town code, trustees recommended the town create and oversee an independent study group to develop “relevant” coastal policy for Southold.

The trustees, who are responsible for water and coastal issues in the town, took their proposals to the Town Board during its Jan. 16 work session, prompted by an increase in weather-related emergency applications from residents seeking approval for work to fix storm-damaged properties, including to bluffs, bulkheads and beach stairs.

“We are at a point that requires a thoughtful approach to coastal resiliency not presently written into our code,” Michael Domino, the trustees’ president, told the board.

Domino said solving coastal erosion was a “very complex problem with no single silver bullet solution,” but was something the trustees felt a broadly based group needed to discuss.

“Basically, what we’re saying is we recognize there is a townwide problem,” Domino said in an interview. “Frankly, we don’t have time to do a tremendous amount of research on this important problem. That’s why we recommend the board use a populated committee to make recommendations” on coastal policy.

Town Councilman Robert Ghosio, who previously served on the trustees board, said Tuesday that while he agreed in principle that coastal erosion should be taken seriously, he would need more information about the trustees’ current push for a new study group before making any decisions.

Trustees also recommended that any new construction project, remodeling reconstruction and dwelling improvement within their jurisdiction, which encompasses more than 2,000 acres of underwater lands in Southold, require updated septic wastewater systems.

The trustees and Southold’s Engineering Department are starting discussions on how creating and implementing a law for such wastewater systems would work and if it would be practical, according to a trustees’ statement.

Installing new systems would help reduce nitrogen flowing into nearby creeks and water bodies, Domino said.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said town officials would look to set up a Code Committee meeting “very quickly in the near future” to discuss the septic system proposal. Ghosio said new wastewater systems were “a good step toward mitigating nitrogen infiltration into bays and streams.”

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