Last week, the Southampton Town Board approved the $26 million beach renourishment project . . . finally.
After months of research, work sessions and discussions, the board unanimously gave the project to rebuild the ocean beaches in Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack the green light, with the next step being a public referendum scheduled for some time after the New Year.
The project began picking up significant steam after Hurricane Sandy, which changed the appearance of the beaches dramatically.
"Needless to say, this project took on a level of urgency," Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said, with respect to the super storm.
Homeowners with ocean front properties on the stretch of beach from Flying Point Road off Mecox Bay in Water Mill to Town Line Road in Sagaponack, 125 in all, will be paying the bulk of the project's tab. The property owners also agreed to cover half of the town's portion of the cost, totaling another $1.5 million, should the project get passed.
Throne-Holst said the town's own $1.5 million expense will come out of a special park district fund, meaning it will have a zero-impact on taxpayers outside the erosion control districts.
"That was a critical component of this," said Councilman Chris Nuzzi, "to have no impact on town residents' taxes."
With the $1.5 million from the town, 2.5 million tons of sand will be distributed onto the ocean beaches, with the hope of adding another 60 to 80 feet of beachfront.
According to Southampton Town Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea, beaches that were wider fared substantially better.
"The greater the width of the beach, the better protection you have," he said.
Shea also said the project will require New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as well as U.S. Army Corp of Engineer approval, both things he felt would not be a problem.
Should the project be approved in the referendum, which will be administered by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, the town will bond for the project and pay it back over a 10-year period through the Sagaponack and Bridgehampton Erosion Control Districts. Residents are expected to pay more than $200,000 a year, depending on the amount of oceanfront on each property.
If passed, ground could be broken on the project as early as next summer, so that the new beachhead could be in place before another hurricane or nor'easter happens.
"One of the benefits of this project is the beach renourishment is happening in a regional manner, in a coordinated way," Shea said.