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Beach

Coastal geologist Aram Terchunian. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The considerations for the Asharoken beach and dune restorations continue.

Coastal geologist Aram Terchunian from First Coastal Corp. consultants delivered a presentation to the board of trustees on Feb. 3, and trustees said they still agreed to go forward with an $84.5 million plan that would transform Asharoken’s beaches and dunes.

Several months ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented the board with five different alternatives to combat the flooding and erosion problems the village has encountered, specifically those that arose after Hurricane Sandy.

Trustees said they preferred the plan known as alternative (1), which uses sand to fill the coastline along Asharoken Beach. The plan includes filling the beach with a particular type of offshore grain that is compatible with the native beach sand. There will also be a dune made on the west end of the beach.

The initial volume of beach fill is 600,000 cubic yards with 80,000 cubic yards of nourishment every three years, Terchunian said. The total estimated cost for construction alone of this plan is just more than $21 million, Terchunian said.

He said that the construction cost is shared roughly 70 percent by the federal government, 20 percent by the state and 10 percent by local government. But the maintenance-costs share changes to only 50 percent federal, 35 percent state and 15 percent local.

The coastal geologist also said the sand alternative plan is the least expensive to construct, but the most expensive to maintain over time due to the amount of annual sand needed.

He said the Army Corps “did their homework” with the proposals they presented to the board, and he particularly praised the plan for alternative (1) because of the type of offshore sand the Corps planned to use.

Asharoken Trustee Mel Ettinger. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Asharoken Trustee Mel Ettinger. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“Looking at these sediments, the Corps made an astute observation,” Terchunian said. “Designing the project with a slightly heavier grain size than exists on beach, from offshore, is an excellent match [to the sand type currently on the beach].”

He said the grain size is “critically important” to the success and endurance of this plan.

In a phone interview on Friday, Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica said the board has concerns with the groin components in the other alternatives presented by the Army Corps.

“We are also concerned about the fact that there is not guaranteed long-term replenishment money which could leave the groins exposed, become a possible eyesore and cause more erosion downstream,” he said.

The main concern of residents and the trustees alike throughout this entire process has been the issue of public access. It is required by the federal government for public access points to be made if government funds are used to help finance the project. Currently, the public is only afforded access of a private beach property below the waterline.

However, if this proposal goes through, the public would have access above the mean high waterline to private properties on the Long Island Sound side.

Letica asked Terchunian if there is anyway Asharoken could get around the additional required public access points. Terchunian said that the Army Corps is not allowed to have any flexibility with the projects they propose, and the U.S. Congress said, “If they spend the money in this location, these are the requirements.”

Local politicians such as Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) and Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) have written to the Army Corps headquarters asking for the public access points on private property to be reconsidered.

Terchunian has years of experience working with the Army Corps, most notably with the Village of Westhampton Beach for dune restoration.

The need for this project was first introduced by Letica in 2012, in a letter to federal legislators urging them to find funding to protect Asharoken Avenue, which he had called “exposed,” after Sandy and multiple nor’easters continued to reduce the size of the dunes protecting the shore.

The village had until yesterday, Feb. 10, to respond initially to the Army Corps. Letica said the board intends to keep the community completely in the loop as it comes closer to making a decision on whether or not they go forward with a plan.

“We want the board to not make these decisions unilaterally,” he said, adding that the trustees will look into forums like public hearings or public surveys to gauge residents’ desires.

Volunteers hold the immobile sea turtles they discovered at West Meadow Beach, where Brookhaven Ranger Molly Hastings is working to nurse them back to health. Photo from Molly Hastings

December’s wacky weather made life more difficult for everyone — but sea turtles at West Meadow Beach had a particular struggle.

Recent outdoor temperatures were largely above normal, with some brief moments of frigid cold. Molly Hastings, who serves as Brookhaven’s environmental educator and park ranger, saw some of the environmental consequences of this when she received an unusual knock on her door on Dec. 20 after a volunteer encountered two immobile, or cold-stunned, sea turtles.

An immobile sea turtle discovered at West Meadow Beach is being nursed back to health. Photo from Molly Hastings
An immobile sea turtle discovered at West Meadow Beach is being nursed back to health. Photo from Molly Hastings

Hastings said the knock came from Celeste Gorman, who was taking a hike along West Meadow Beach as a volunteer in search of turtles rendered immobile by the cold weather. She ended up finding two in a very short span of time.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described sea turtles as cold-blooded animals with circulatory systems that can slow to the point of immobility when exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Various factors have helped contribute to the higher prevalence of cold-stunning, like more shallow bodies of water and more dramatic temperature changes, NOAA said.

Hastings said she was well aware of the impact an unpredictable climate has on the wildlife living not only at West Meadow, but across the town and country. She said this small, isolated incident with the sea turtles should serve a greater purpose.

“Hopefully, the turtles will recover from this climate change-caused incident,” Hastings said. “Regardless of their individual fate, let it serve as a gentle reminder that we all are charged of fixing what we’ve done to the great outdoors.”

A West Meadow Beach bench sports a new plaque honoring former park ranger Eileen Gerle. Photo by Eric Santiago

By Eric Santiago

More than 30 North Shore residents gathered around a park bench at West Meadow Beach on Sunday for the chance to see former Brookhaven park ranger, Eileen Gerle. The bench — which now bears a plaque commemorating Gerle’s work as an environmental educator — was dedicated to her after she retired and moved to Florida last year.

“It’s hard to put into words,” said an emotional Gerle. “It’s very overwhelming and touching to be loved by so many people.”

Gerle returned this week for a special Eagle Scout award ceremony of one of her former students just in time for a group of residents and friends to seize the opportunity and formally show her the plaque and celebrate old times.

Former town park ranger Eileen Gerle is honored at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Eric Santiago
Former town park ranger Eileen Gerle is honored at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Eric Santiago

“She was the best,” said Paul Feinberg, a West Meadow watchdog who helped organize the dedication along with a handful of other North Shore natives.

They were all frequent guests at Gerle’s “Sundowner” beach parties, where they would drink wine, eat cheese and watch the sunset. When it was clear Gerle was going to retire, the group hatched a plan to honor her work.

“We just decided that a simple plaque would be the nicest thing to do,” said Naomi Solo, a Port Jefferson resident who worked on the dedication.

As park ranger, Gerle was responsible for maintaining the beach, the area wildlife and, critically, educating people about the environment. She worked at West Meadow from 2009 to 2014 and said she made many friends along the way.

It was for this reason Solo and the others contacted Brookhaven Town for permission to install the plaque on a bench at the beach.

Her influence was so impactful that immediately after she resigned residents campaigned for town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) to guarantee that her position would be filled with another full-­time park ranger. Their efforts were successful and Gerle’s successor Molly Hastings took over the spot at West Meadow.

A year into the job, Hastings said the response has been nothing short of warm.

“It was really nice,” she said of when she started working at the beach. “I literally pulled up with the moving van and people were greeting me and welcoming me as I was taking the sofa and bed off of my truck.”

But Gerle’s greatest legacy lies in the students she taught, those at the ceremony said.

Aidan Donnelly, 13, was one of those who attended the educational programs Gerle organized. The newly appointed Eagle Scout was also the recipient of the William T. Hornaday badge — a prestigious award for “distinguished service in natural resource conservation,” according to the Boy Scouts of America website.

Aidan attributed the work he’s done, and the work he hopes to do as a future environmental physicist, to the lessons he learned from his mentor.

“She taught me everything I know about the beach,” he said of Gerle. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for her.”

Crab Meadow Beach in Northport. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Three boys got more than they bargained for on Monday when they paddled their canoe toward the Long Island Sound with the hopes of fishing and met powerful winds that blew them 1.5 miles offshore.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the Huntington Station kids — brothers Davin Miles, 12, and Kenyon Miles, 10, and their friend, 12-year-old Chris Gurr — launched the canoe from Northport’s Crab Meadow Beach early in the evening but as the paddled away from the shoreline, the wind picked up and they were blown out 1.5 miles.

Marine Bureau officers Michael O’Leary and Charles Marchiselli, on SCPD patrol vessel Marine Bravo, were on routine patrol on the Sound when they discovered the kids and brought both them and their canoe aboard.

Police said the boys were all wearing flotation devices and were uninjured, but had been unable to paddle back to the beach because of 15 to 20 mile-per-hour winds and 2-foot waves.

O’Leary and Marchiselli brought the kids to their parents, who were waiting at Crab Meadow.

Huntington Town hosts 4th Annual Sand Castle Contest

Five teams competed in Huntington Town’s 4th Annual Sand Castle contest, held at Crab Meadow Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 19. The event, hosted by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson’s (D) office, included lifeguards as judges and teams won awards for designs that were most creative, most original and more.

Photo from SCPD

It was like a scene out of “Mission: Impossible” — four guys damage a vacant building at the Vanderbilt Museum and then flee to a waiting boat and get away.

The Suffolk County Police Department said it is on the hunt for the suspects, who allegedly damaged a door and roof panel on a building at the Centerport museum on Little Neck Road on Friday afternoon.

Police said after a witness noticed the vandals, the men fled in a red boat that had been parked on the adjacent beach.

Officers from the SCPD’s 2nd Precinct Crime Section and Suffolk County Crime Stoppers are asking for the public’s help to identify and locate the men, who are wanted for criminal mischief. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS. There is a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), right, and Park Ranger Molly Hastings at the stewardship center. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Town officials recently toured the newly reconstructed boardwalk at the Marine Environmental Stewardship Center at Cedar Beach.

The 500-foot-long loop begins and ends at the center, which is located off of the nature trail at the beach, and offers visitors two resting off shoots with benches. Visitors can stroll along the walkway to see a variety of wildlife and watch the sunset.

The boardwalk isn’t the only thing residents can see at the center. The center is open until Labor Day, Sept. 7, Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.  In addition, the center is hosting a variety of summer programs open to people of all ages throughout the month of August:

The Giving Tree Aug. 8, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Discover how dependent we are on trees. Trees give us cleaner air, food, medicine, shelter and much more.

Shellfish Facility Tour Aug. 14, from 10 to 11 a.m. Tour the grow-out facility at Cedar Beach. Learn why we are giving nature a helping hand.

Marine Life Jeopardy Aug. 15, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. All ages. Play with family and friends together or as opponents; you choose. Test your knowledge of Long Island Marine life.

Nature Center Tour Aug. 21, from 10 to 11 a.m. Take a tour of the newly upgraded Nature Center. Environmental displays, touch screen interactive computers, marine tanks and touch tanks.

All programs are free and registration is required. To register call Ranger Molly Hastings at 631-751-6714 or email at mhastings@brookhaven.org. Leave your name, number of people attending and the program name.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The county health department warned locals on Friday against bathing at 25 Huntington area beaches, the morning after heavy rainfall drenched the North Shore.

According to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, it issued the advisory because the rain could have led to bacteria levels in the water that exceed state standards.

“The beaches covered by the advisory are located in areas that are heavily influenced by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watersheds and/or adjacent tributaries,” the department said in a press release, “and, because of their location in an enclosed embayment, experience limited tidal flushing.”

Affected beaches include Eagle Dock Community Beach, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club beach, West Neck Beach, Lloyd Neck Bath Club beach, Lloyd Harbor Village Park beach, Gold Star Battalion Park beach, Head of the Bay Club beach, Nathan Hale Beach Club beach, Baycrest Association beach, Bay Hills Beach Association beach, Crescent Beach, Knollwood Beach Association beach, Fleets Cove Beach, Centerport Beach, Huntington Beach Community Association beach, Centerport Yacht Club beach, Steers Beach, Asharoken Beach, Hobart Beach (both the Long Island Sound and cove sides), Crab Meadow Beach, Wincoma Association beach, Valley Grove Beach, Prices Bend Beach and Callahans Beach.

The advisory was scheduled to be lifted at 9 p.m. on Friday, to give enough time for two tidal cycles to clear out the water. However, the health department said the advisory would not be lifted if water samples from the affected beaches showed continued high levels of bacteria.

For up-to-date information on the affected beaches, call the health department’s bathing beach hotline at 631-852-5822 or visit the beach monitoring webpage.

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Asharoken Village residents will soon have to decide if they want support a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-backed proposal to replenish the community’s eroding beaches.

The $30 million idea involves building the beach back up with more sand to fight erosion. The issue concerning many residents is that in order for the plan to go into effect, public access must be granted to private properties that have new sand put down on their beaches.

Currently, the public is only afforded access of a private beach property below the water line. However, if the village board approves this proposal, the public would have access above the mean high water line to certain private properties.

Some trustees on the village board have said they will not approve a plan that residents don’t agree with.
According to Village Trustee Mel Ettinger, five public access points need to be established for this pitch to go through. He said currently the public can access private beaches from two different areas, and are not trespassing as long as they are below the mean high water line.

Since the Army Corps of Engineers is largely funding the project, public access is a must in order for the proposal to go through. The Army Corps would pay for 89.5 percent of the $30 million costs to help fight beach erosion, and the village would have to pay 10.5 percent, or about $3 million dollars.

“The board of trustees and the mayor are doing our due diligence in exploring the issues associated with putting sand on the beaches and making sure residents are being heard,” Ettinger said in a recent phone interview.

At the end of June, the Army Corps presented the board with five different versions of the proposal, all varying in costs and methods.

On June 30, the Army Corps met with the village board and recommended a plan that consists of a berm and a dune system with groins on the northwestern end of the project area. This area includes the properties on the side of Asharoken Avenue that touches the Long Island Sound.

Berms are wedges of sand that face the sea. They are composed of sand from offshore, and help indicate that the beach has been gaining sand in recent weeks or months. Dunes are hills of sand that have either accumulated over time or have been bulldozed in. Artificial dunes help to hold an eroding shoreline in place.

“Groins in combination with new sand would reduce the erosional effect of existing groins and reduce the frequency of re-nourishments needed,” James D’Ambrosio, public affairs spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers said.

According to D’Ambrosio, if the residents of Asharoken do not approve this idea, then the Hurricane Sandy funds that were allocated this project would be used elsewhere.

Ettinger said once the board decides on a plan, it is required to write a letter to the Army Corps requesting which plan they want to go ahead with. Then, assuming the Army Corps approves the decision, the board will prepare a presentation to the village residents that explain all aspects of what it would mean to move forward with the plan.

“The best decision is to come up with a plan that the residents are in agreement with,” Mayor Greg Letica said in a recent phone interview.

Letica also mentioned that there are other options to ensure the safety and longevity of the beaches in Asharoken while still maintaining private access. If residents themselves entirely footed the bill, then there would be no need for the Army Corps financial assistance, and thus no obligation to make private beaches public.

“We need to protect the beaches, I understand the residents that don’t want to give access to their private property, but I think this is something we need to do,” Christine Peterson, an Asharoken resident said in a recent interview. “It’s not like we’re opening up a new beach and expect many new visitors to come and use it.”

Pols reopen beach after seven years

The shore at the Centerport Yacht Club is open. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The push to clean up Suffolk County’s water quality saw a major milestone on one Centerport shorefront Monday.

Lawmakers and community members gathered at the Centerport Yacht Club on Northport Harbor on a hot summer day to mark the reopening of the beach, which had been shuttered for seven years because of its poor water quality. The harbor is celebrating a cleaner bill of health thanks to multi-governmental efforts to reduce pollution — most significantly through recent upgrades to the Northport wastewater treatment plant.

“Today is unprecedented due to the efforts of many stakeholders,” Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced at a press conference inside the clubhouse. “…This is the result of a lot of hard work.”

Officials cut a ribbon to mark the reopening of the beach at Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Officials cut a ribbon to mark the reopening of the beach at Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Spencer and a number of Huntington Town officials including Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) cut the ribbon opening the beach, and the county officials hand-delivered a beach permit to the supervisor.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services, with oversight from the New York State Department of Health, conducted more than 600 tests in 20 locations at the beach since April, Spencer said. The results found that the quality of the water meets “required stringent standards,” Spencer’s office said in a statement.

Northport Harbor, once the “epicenter of red tide in the Northeast,” has seen a dramatic reduction of nitrogen, from 19.4 lbs. per day to 7.5 lbs. And there’s been no red tide in the harbor in the last three seasons, Spencer’s office said.

Officials said a significant upgrade to the Northport sewage treatment plant had a huge hand in turning the tide.

Bellone, who said the county is facing a “water quality crisis,” recognized Northport Village officials for being on top of the issue. He called the rehabilitation of Northport Harbor an “example of what we need to do around the county.”

Petrone and Bellone said Spencer had a big hand in making waves on the issue.

“The doctor’s orders worked,” Petrone said.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The issue of Northport Harbor’s water quality gained steam among Centerport Yacht Club members when Joe Marency, past commodore, was at the helm about five years ago. He praised the beach reopening at Monday’s press conference.

“There’s still a lot to do but this is a big step in the right direction,” he said.

At the close of the press conference, lawmakers gathered outside the club on the water. They excitedly uprooted a “no swimming” sign posted there, and Bellone and Spencer exclaimed, “Who’s going in?”

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) waded into the water, ankle-deep. It took a pair of bold bathers seconds to dart towards the shore and dive in.

“It’s beautiful and warm,” said Randall Fenderson, one of the swimmers who emerged from the water.

Fenderson, who presently lives in Santa Monica, California, said he grew up in the area and has a personal connection to the beach, and was sad to see it closed.

A group of children also made their way to the water, include Greenlawn sisters Paige and Madelyn Quigley. The girls, 6-years old and 10 years old, also said the water felt nice.

“Now we’ll be in here forever,” Madelyn said.

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