State environmental officials are asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to abandon a dune restoration study for Asharoken, despite village officials’ reluctance to commit to the project before its full scope is clear.
The Army Corps told the New York Department of Environmental Conservation last month that DEC and Asharoken village officials must provide written support for a proposed $23.7 million beach restoration, or the study and project would be terminated.
In an Oct. 18 letter, Alan A. Fuchs, director of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Flood Protection and Dam Safety, asked the Army Corps to reconsider its stance.
“The DEC requests that the Corps reconsider its intent to terminate this feasibility study due to the inability of” village and state officials to commit to all of the federal agency’s provisions, Fuchs wrote.
The DEC believes there is “a reasonable potential” for the project to go forward, Fuchs wrote, although state and village officials could not commit now to provide funding, real estate or operation and maintenance.
The feasibility study “is approximately 95 percent complete, has cost over $4,000,000 in federal, state, and local funds,” Fuchs said in the letter. Ending it “at this point in the process would mean that these taxpayer dollars were spent in vain.”
Asharoken officials have said they are reluctant to commit to the project before seeing the final plan, including the cost to be borne by taxpayers in a village of about 650 people and with a roughly $2 million annual budget.
While the Army Corps would fund 65 percent and the DEC would cover 24.5 percent of the initial construction of the project, some residents have questioned whether Asharoken’s tax base can afford the remaining 10.5 percent — $2.5 million according to most recent estimates — without support from Huntington Town.
The feasibility study is a mandatory precursor to the project, and the restoration’s full scope and requirements for the village and its residents won’t be known until that study is complete.
Mayor Greg Letica, who did not return calls for comment Monday, told residents in an email last month that he believed, based on Army Corps demands and requirements, that the study and project had “reached the end of the road.”
Army Corps officials, who had sought the written commitment by Oct. 18, were not immediately available for comment Monday.
It remained unclear late Monday if the absence of that commitment signals an end to the project, which is roughly 15 years in the making.
The federal agency’s demand follows years of local resistance to the project, which would require many residents to allow public access on their private beaches. Federal law requires such access wherever the agency puts down sand.
But while many residents oppose the project, some have expressed support, saying the dune needs to be rebuilt to protect against potential devastation from the next superstorm.