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Southampton Trustees Consider Controversial Sand Dune Proposal To Save Condos

Courtesy of First Coastal
Supporters of the geocube project say without the protection, the Round Dune condominiums will be in danger of falling into the ocean.

Southampton Town Trustees will consider a proposal to install sandbags in a human-made dune to protect condominiums on the shoreline. Critics say the project will speed up soil erosion, but supporters warn that without the dune, buildings could fall into the ocean.

The Round Dune condominium development in East Quogue has two buildings that are on the shoreline.

The beach has shrunk by more than 50 feet after multiple nor’easters struck the shoreline in the last 60 days.

Now, the foundations of the buildings are exposed to the waves.

Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist consultant who is working with Round Dune, says the buildings need protection to get through the nor’easter season.

“The buildings’ absence on protection at the foundations will not survive, and that’s the reason we need to undertake this emergency action to get them through the winter.”

Terchunian wants permission to install 3-foot geocubes, sandbags that are tied together to form a human-made dune to protect the foundation of the building. 

Southampton Town trustees have avoided approving the installation of these kinds of structures on the beach because of their environmental impact.

Kevin McAllister, an expert on coastal processes with environmental advocacy group Defend H2O, has spoken out against shoreline structures on Long Island for years.

“Essentially they’ll destroy the beach in front of it, so at the ends of these structures there’s accelerated erosion that would affect a neighboring property.”

Supporters of the geocube proposal say the limited emergency installation of the sandbags will not have a significant impact on neighboring properties.

Southampton Chief Building Inspector Michael Benincasa spoke at a Trustee board meeting this month.

“I would say if they were sticking into the beach a little bit more, yeah maybe, but sitting up against the piles on the house I don’t think they are really gonna affect the properties on either side.”

The debate at the meeting mentioned shoreline retreat as a potential long-term option.

But the supporters of the geocube plan say they first have to survive the winter.

Terchunian says there is help coming from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.

“This particular section of the shoreline is slated to get a beach restoration project as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New York State Fire Island to Montauk Point project. And at the present time the construction schedule is 2021, so we’re looking at something less than two years.”

McAllister says the plan would do more harm than good for the town’s population.

He says this is part of a larger trend on Long Island to build shoreline structures to protect private property which will harm public beaches.

“This is death by a thousand cuts on the structures on shorelines. This is a trend we have to arrest, we have to slow down, because again we will see the shorelines disappear.”

The town has its own coastal expert studying the issue and has planned a public hearing on the geocube proposal.

The hearing will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the David W. Crohan Community Center in Flanders.

Jay Shah is a former Long Island bureau chief at WSHU.