"The dune will take care of itself, if you take care of the beach."
That's what Aram Terchunian, an environmental consultant from First Coastal corporation, said to Southampton Town officials during a discussion on the revised Bridgehampton and Sagaponack Beach Erosion Control District project last Thursday.
Terchunian, along with Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray, Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea, and Town Trustees Fred Havemeyer and Eric Schultz, met with the Southampton Town Board to discuss how to proceed in the upcoming winter months last Thursday.
In the aftermath of both Hurricane Sandy and last week's Nor'Easter, the pressure was on to move the project forward before the worst of the winter weather sets in.
"Homeowners have spent lots of money on fixing their homes," said Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. "They have a first hand look at what can happen after a storm like this. It really brings to the forefront what we should do to prepare."
Shea said there has been "very significant beach erosion and dune loss."
Shea explained the intent of the Erosion Control District plan is to extend the beach seaward, thus softening its incline.
"Hurricane Sandy has accelerated our agenda," Terchunian said. "Our conclusion is we're running a sediment deficit, which in turn manifests itself with a particular form of a profile. Our driving forces have all been accelerated by Sandy."
Tim Kana, of Coastal Science & Engineering Inc., was also on hand to discuss and compare a similar situation he assisted with in South Carolina.
"It's about building up the underwater profile," he said. "Dunes are critical for the long term. It's a simple concept, but it really needs a community effort."
The $24 million project is making some headway.
"Although the damage we sustained here is nothing compared to elsewhere," Throne-Holst said, "we need to move this forward. We need to protect the resources there."
"If you're eligible for [Federal Emergency Management Agency] funding, then you're eligible for reimbursement," Thiele said. "Whatever you lost, you can get back." Terchunian noted that would only include rebuilding the surf line.
Thiele said he and Murray are working on legislation that would provide conservation easements for the properties within the project boundaries, with the possibility of having a bill drafted as early as tomorrow. A special town board meeting was held last Friday to discuss deadlines and when to book dredges to move the sand.
"One of the biggest issues on this is timing," Thiele said. "When can it be passed and when can it be effective."
Thiele reminded the town board legislation needs to be adopted well before July 1, 2013, when the prime season for recreational beach-going begins.
"This is a local bill, there's a precedence for it," he said.
Murray said a hearing on the matter will be set for November 27.