The Southampton Press published this letter to the editor by John Siebold of Hampton Bays.
SDBF offers its thanks to the Southampton Press for their continued coverage and support of the Foundation’s efforts.
“So Much At Stake”
Be prepared. These words were taught to me years ago by my Scoutmaster. They’re as true today as they were then, and should guide us as we enter a new hurricane season.
We need to assess the shape of our ocean beaches and dunes in order to protect against future storms. It was interesting to review the opinion-editorial by Marjorie Kuhn regarding the breach that occurred this spring, pushing sand onto Dune Road [“It Is Time To Rebuild Our Beaches,” Viewpoint, Western Edition, June 12].
I’ve walked the ocean beaches throughout the spring, observing the areas between Shinnecock and Moriches inlets. Many will not withstand a major storm. The area mentioned is especially vulnerable, with over a quarter of a mile of missing dunes and a flat beach. Even minor storms are causing washovers.
When I first came to Hampton Bays in the 1940s, there were fresh memories of the 1938 hurricane. Every effort was made to maintain the barrier beach. Engineers at that time suggested the dunes should be maintained at a height of 15 feet in order to withstand surging waters of major hurricanes. This would protect our towns and villages from being flooded.
There were two methods used to protect the beaches, with each town responsible for assessing and repairing winter damage. One method was to hire private contractors. This work was done by businesses that had the bulldozers to take scrapings from the beach and rebuild the dunes. The other method was conducted by dredges owned by Suffolk County that came every few years. They would dredge the main channels to make them safe for boaters. The sand was pumped through pipes to the weakest dunes. These methods were used until the 1970s.
After that the barrier beach was left to deteriorate and Mother Nature could not rebuild it due to the inlet jetties that changed the natural flow of sand westward. The beaches come and go from season to season, building up in the summer before being depleted by off-season storms. The dunes are mostly built up by the wind and structures, such as grasses and snow fencing. These methods take decades to get the beach strong enough to withstand surging waters.
With so much at stake, we shouldn’t be relying on far-off government agencies with purse strings to pay for our beach nourishment projects. They have no vested interest in our area. We should make decisions on the state and local level in order to protect ourselves.
Local towns should plan a way to get permits and financing for the repairs needed to maintain a strong barrier beach. It doesn’t matter how many hurricanes are forecast; it’s the one that comes our way that counts.