The first of three Summer Seashell Speaker Series was held this past Saturday, June 21st at 2 PM in the Quogue Village Court House. In spite of the near perfect weather, approximately 45 people joined Mayor Peter Sartorious, Aram Terchunian, Principal of First Coastal, Jay Tanski, from New York Sea Grant, and Dr. David Basco, Director of the Coastal Engineering Centre at Old Dominion University.

Between them, Mr. Tanski and Dr. Basco have years of experience and research in Coastal Engineering, & Coastal Processes and bring a wealth of understanding of how communities can become more resilient in the face of coastal hazards, like Superstorm Sandy and nor’easters, all of which continue to create havoc on our coastline. Sea Grant’s Mission of “Bringing Science to the Shore” was a great way to couch the Foundation’s goal of educating our neighbors.

We wanted participants to leave the first meeting knowing more than when they arrived and challenged our speakers to answer three questions:

  1. Is beach nourishment a reasonable and technically feasible alternative?
  2. How is success measured?
  3. Has this technique been successfully used on the south shore and where?

Here the links to download the Tanski and Basco presentations.

My takeaways were:

  • Yes, Beach nourishment works!
  • Success is measured uniquely at each beach and include such items as a) damages avoided, b) infrastructure protected and c) habitat created and maintained.
  • Beach nourishment is used widely on the South Shore of Long Island from Coney Island to Sagaponack.

In addition to these answers the two experts shared other important takaways:

  • The beach is part of our culture.
  • Beach nourishment requires maintenance just like roads and bridges.
  • Each case must be examined on an individual basis- there is no one size fits all. A good plan must be put in place and executed with the understanding of local beach processes. It is most important to understand what the shoreline is doing to design and implement a successful project.
  • There is a plentiful sediment supply of beach compatible sand (over 1 billion cubic yards) in our offshore borrow area system. Storms have the largest waves and the strongest currents and thus the greatest impact on the shoreline over the short term. Over longer time frames sand supply (or the interruption of sand supply) is more important than sea level rise and climate change, which have the greatest impact over 1,000+ year timeframe.
  • Hurricanes strike with the greatest force, but are fast moving storms that are gone with one tide cycle (24 hours). Nor’easters, on the other hand, may stick around, sometimes through as many as 4-5 tidal cycles, relentlessly gnawing away at the coastline.
  • Sand that should naturally make its way from east to west gets caught in the Shinnecock Inlet- compromising shipping lanes, creating shoals, and disrupting the sand supply destined for the western end of the barrier island. This creates a negative sand budget for the areas west of Shinnecock Inlet, including Quogue.