Stony Brook’s West Meadow Beach temporarily closed for dredging

Stony Brook’s West Meadow Beach temporarily closed for dredging

A steam shovel fills a waiting dump truck to distribute sand along West Meadow Beach. By Donna Newman

Winter strolls along West Meadow Beach have been put on hold to avoid future environmental and boating problems.

Since Dec. 4, the Town of Brookhaven beach and Trustees Road in Stony Brook have been closed to the public. The town’s parks  department made the decision to accommodate an ongoing Suffolk County dredging project.

“It was the determination of the law and parks departments to close the beach due to safety and liability issues,” town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “Resident safety is paramount to the town.”

While the dredging project is in effect, multiple trucks and dredging equipment will be accessing the beach, which could potentially cause dangerous situations for visitors if the beach remained open.

Dredging is nothing new for Long Island waterways, according to Larry Swanson, interim dean and associate dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and director of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute at Stony Brook University. The sediment dredged from the depths of waterways is added to beaches to nourish the shorelines, which in turn helps to slow down erosion and protects structures from rising sea levels and storm surges. He said dredging projects are ideally done in the winter to protect marine organisms, which aren’t as active during the season as they are in warmer months. He said the currents are typically strong where the county is dredging, which most likely will produce clean sand and gravel.

Swanson said Long Beach in Smithtown, which is located slightly west of the Stony Brook beach and regularly needs dredging material, is progressing to the east/northeast about 1 yard per year.

“What that does as it progresses, it tends to cause the currents to eat into West Meadow Beach,” he said. “So when that happens, sometimes there’s a cut that forms in West Meadow Beach.”

The dean said it is ideal to fill up the cut so it doesn’t keep eroding, as there’s a possibility in 20 years that it could break into West Meadow creek.

“The preservation of beaches as we know them is somewhat depending upon this source of dredge material,” Swanson said.

The dean said dredging is done for other reasons, too.

“The channel coming into Stony Brook Harbor fills up to the point where the low water depth is no more than 1 or 2 feet, and most boats that enter Stony Brook Harbor have a draft in excess of 1 or 2 feet and so they hit bottom,” Swanson said. “People don’t want to damage their boats.”

West Meadow Beach is expected to reopen on or about Jan. 1, according to a statement from Brookhaven Town.

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