Sagaponack resident Gary Ireland and coastal geologist Aram Terchunian visited the Sagaponack Village Board on Monday to revisit an old issue of beach erosion. According to Ireland, over 45 years ago the Army Corps of Engineers attempted to protect the eastern beaches on Long Island by widening and lengthening the sand dunes, hoping to create a buffer against future natural disasters like the hurricane of 1938. Urged by beachfront property owners, the Army erected groins in East Hampton to keep the sand in place. Unfortunately, said Ireland, the groins caused erosion farther west along the shore in Sagaponack.
“The tide carries the sand [down the shore] like a river. If you put up groins, the sand builds up on one side and the sand is eroded on the other side. In Sagaponack, we are down drift from these incredibly large groins,” explained Ireland in a later interview.
Ireland’s family has witnessed the devastation of beach erosion first hand. His cousin’s home fell into the ocean in 1993. Ireland’s mother has twice moved her cottage further inland — and Ireland fears his own home, an unheated cottage built in 1938, will suffer the same fate.
On Monday, Ireland and Terchunian asked the board to consider once again creating a special taxing district, an Erosion Control District, to help levy funds for a beach nourishment project.
“I know the homeowners are discouraged [by the special district idea]. It is saddling the victims with the problem … but we have no other choice,” remarked Ireland.
The district would act as a non-federal sponsor of a beach nourishment project and would most likely share the costs with the county, state and federal government. This additional monetary support by higher levels of government is based on a strong desire at the local level for the project.
According to Ireland and Terchunian, the project would cost roughly $24 million or $1,600 per square foot of beachfront.