TODAY'S PAPER
70° Good Evening
70° Good Evening
OpinionEditorial

Rethink plans to protect beaches

Sandbags have been placed at Quogue Village Beach

Sandbags have been placed at Quogue Village Beach to prevent futher erosion until a more permanent solution can be found. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Another beautiful Long Island beach is eroding. This one is in the village of Quogue.

It’s no surprise.

The beach is eroding because of the sandbags placed on it. That’s what always happens with sandbags. They were put on the beach in Quogue to protect the pricey oceanfront homes behind them. When the ocean hits the sandbags, which act like a sea wall, it rebounds and takes sand back out with it, scouring the beach. As seas continue to rise, there is even less room for beach.

Folks in Quogue are debating an action plan. Some suggest expensive sand replenishment. Others favor letting nature take its course. That’s the right call. And that would set a much-needed example for the rest of Long Island, which needs to come to grips with the nature of beaches and the hard implications of climate change.

Coastlines are dynamic; they constantly change. South Shore beaches like the one in Quogue naturally migrate north. Ocean waves deposit sand on beaches and, sometimes, inland. The ocean gobbles up old beach but builds new beach behind. That’s only a problem when houses or other man-made structures lie in the way.

Armoring a beach to anchor it never is successful in the long run. It’s even more silly in an era of rising seas and more intense storms. The sad truth about sand replenishment jobs is that they, too, need to be replenished eventually. In most cases, “eventually” means 2 to 4 years. We don’t mean to be cavalier about what this means for oceanfront property owners. But at some point, and soon, we all must accept that we have built too close to the water in too many places, and that fortifying those structures is a never-ending expense.

Some say a property owner has the right to protect his or her property, as long as the rest of us aren’t paying for it. And while an erosion control district that would fund sand replenishment from taxes collected only from threatened property owners would put the financial burden entirely on those homeowners, the rest of us are paying, too. The public owns the beach on the water side of the mean high water mark. When a hard structure renders that beach inaccessible by making it disappear under water, we all suffer.

The Quogue beach in question is just a spit downdrift from another condo complex where residents got permission in December to protect their own imperiled waterfront property with their own set of sand-filled geocubes. The Town of Southampton gave the residents up to nine months on the fix until the Army Corps of Engineers begins its 50-plus-years-in-the-making Fire Island to Montauk Point protection plan — which includes a really big sand dump.

This cannot continue. Nature always wins this battle. And we will always pay the price until we learn to work with nature, not fight it.

— The editorial board

Columns