What are the Alternatives?
There are a number of erosion control options. Generally speaking, soft solutions focus on replenishing beaches and dunes with sand; hard solutions include seawalls (either onshore or offshore) and hard Geotubes (as distinct from the softer Geo-Cubes which are basically all sand contained in soft bags). Hard solutions have been prohibited in many areas because of the lateral scouring effect. The preferred alternative in Quogue is the soft solution of beach nourishment (also called beach restoration). Beach scraping, GeoCubes and similar actions are short term measures intended to address immediate threats. They are not a comprehensive solution in and of themselves.
Why is Beach Nourishment Preferred?
For environmental reasons, regulatory constraints, and effectiveness it is the only method that produces a predictably wide beach and dune. The State of New York prefers beach nourishment to other methods and has routinely issued permits for such projects, for example the projects at West Hampton Dunes and west of Shinnecock Inlet. The Village of Quogue amended the Village Code several years ago to identify beach nourishment as the preferred alternative and to discourage hard structures.Finally, because beach nourishment uses sand as its building material, it is, by definition, producing the sandy beach and dune system that is highly desirable for people and habitat.
Does Beach Nourishment Really Work?
Yes, it has been used successfully throughout the nation including the east, west, and Gulf coasts as well as the Great Lakes. On Long Island, projects have proved effective at Fire and west of Shinnecock and most dramatically at neighboring West Hampton Dunes. Of important relevance to Quogue residents is the fact that during Hurricane Sandy the West Hampton Dunes nourishment protected both the barrier island and the mainland, too. There was no damage to the homes and infrastructure. Southampton Town has a major sand replenishment program in preparation.Beach nourishment is not a one-time exercise. It requires an initial project that is usually quite large and periodic supplements depending on the initial design and anticipated erosion rate. Based on the engineer’s estimate, the proposed program at Quogue will give protection for ten years. It is designed to replace all of the sand lost over the last 10 years and to provide an additional 400,000 cubic yards of sand as a buffer.
How do you build a Beach and Dune Project?
Beach restoration is, at its essence, the mimicking of natural beach processes. Specifically, it is placing sand of similar quality, size and color onto the beach to supplement the natural beach processes. Crucially, beach restoration also provides environmental values that are lost on eroding beaches. These values include, a) larger and wider sand beach for endangered species habitat, b) more robust dunes that provide homes for many species, c) bigger, better and stronger beaches and dunes for flood protection and protection to the mainland, and d) public access.Specifically, since Quogue’s beaches are eroding because of Shinnecock’s interference in natural processes, beach restoration will restore the natural beach dynamics by replacing the sand that is trapped at Shinnecock Inlet. The sand used for beach restoration would come from over a mile offshore and is well seaward of the sandbars that help protect the shoreline. It is a requirement of the environmental review process that the dredging will not adversely impact the sandbars.The selection and use of offshore borrow areas is closely monitored and regulated by both New York State and the federal government. The Quogue project envisions using a 100 acre borrow area within a much larger 1,000 acre borrow site. Moreover, the borrow area is only dredged to a depth of 7 feet and has gentle side slopes to minimize the impact to the surrounding areas.Throughout the permit process, during construction and after construction, the project sponsor must demonstrate compliance with strict environmental standards. Fortunately, scientific study after study has demonstrated that taking sand from the offshore borrow areas has no lasting impact on fish migration, shellfish, vegetation or ocean waves and currents. Typically, the offshore area returns to its pre-project condition within one year.Naturally, as part of the review and approval process, the borrow area selected for the Quogue project would require approval by all governmental agencies, including the US Army Corps of Engineering (USACE), and will not interfere with the USACE projects.
How Much Does it Cost?
Beach nourishment costs are directly related to how many cubic yards of sand per linear foot are pumped onto the beach. The specific design developed for the Quogue beach and dune is approximately $900 per linear beach foot. The project contemplated will place 1,100,000 cubic yards of sand along the 14,325 lineal feet of Quogue oceanfront beaches. The total project cost is presently estimated at approximately $13 million.
Who Pays for Beach Nourishment?
Under the New York Village Law, Villages have the power to finance improvements at the expense of the owners of the lands benefited thereby or partly at the expense of such owners and partly at the expense of the Village at large. Allocation of the costs of such projects is usually based on the assessed value of land and property, but the determination of a final cost-sharing formula is made by the Village Board of Trustees, bearing in mind the possible contribution of other state and federal sources. The process is subject to a public hearing.