An overwhelming majority of Asharoken households responding to a survey about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ $20 million dune restoration proposal oppose the project, according to results village officials released Wednesday.
The survey found 85 percent of respondents oppose the project, which would require public access to what are now private beaches on Long Island Sound.
Mayor Greg Letica has said village trustees will rely heavily on the results of the survey and a Jan. 4 public hearing when they decide next month whether to support or reject the project. Letica and village trustees did not respond to requests for comment.
Village officials sent 427 surveys, and 259 — or 61 percent — responded. Of those respondents, 219 rejected the project, while 40 supported moving forward.
The proposal has been controversial in the village, largely because of a federal requirement that would force many residents to allow public access on their private beach property.
“We don’t want the public funds, we want to come up with a different plan,” said Jane Snyder, a beach lot owner and co-founder of the Asharoken Property Owners’ Association.
Cost has also been a concern, as the village’s initial share of about $2.3 million would be borne by its roughly 650 taxpayers. Asharoken’s annual budget is just over $2 million.
“To put that kind of budget on a few hundred homeowners is patently absurd,” resident Rob Holmes said. “The Town of Huntington and Suffolk County should have been joint local sponsors.”
The project is also a public safety issue, as the village sits on a long narrow landmass that is vulnerable to flooding and washout in major storms. Its main road — Asharoken Avenue — is the sole land evacuation route for many residents and about 1,400 people living in Eatons Neck, part of Huntington.
“We understand why no one in Asharoken could vote ‘yes’ for such onerous terms,” Eatons Neck resident John Ballow said. “Where does that leave Eatons Neck with access, light heat power and emergencies? What, if any, are the other options or agencies who can help?”
Army Corps officials previously said the project could be resurrected if state and village officials provide written support in January stating they agree to all federal conditions, including public access — but it is unclear if that remains an option.
“It has become clear to me that there is no consensus with the NYSDEC or the Village of Asharoken about how to best build the project, or even agreement as to whether or not the project should be built,” said Col. David A Caldwell, commander of the Corps’ New York District in a Dec. 14 letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Caldwell said he notified senior Army Corps officials that they have concluded the project’s unfinished feasibility study — a mandatory project prerequisite years in the making and six months from completion.
DEC officials said they hope the Army Corps remains open to resuming the study and project if the village delivers written support in January, in a Dec. 14 response to Caldwell.
“It is our hope” the Army Corps would resume the feasibility study if Asharoken trustees “provide a satisfactory response” in January, said James Tierney, deputy commissioner for the state DEC’s office of water resources, in the letter.
By the numbers
Asharoken beach restoration survey
85 percent — The proportion of survey respondents who said they oppose the project, compared to 15 percent in support.
650 — Rough population of the Village of Asharoken.
259 — The number of survey responses received by the Dec. 19 deadline, out of the 427 sent to each household or parcel.
219 — Number of survey responses that opposed the project, compared to 40 responses in support.