Urgent need for Asharoken seawall replacement to protect village and Eaton’s Neck...

Urgent need for Asharoken seawall replacement to protect village and Eaton’s Neck community

Assemblyman Keith P. Brown (R,C-Northport) stands alongside Sen. Mario R. Mattera (R,C-Smithtown), Asharoken Mayor Dr. Gregory Letica, other elected and appointed officials and community representatives at the Asharoken Seawall in Asharoken Village on Friday, May 10, 2024.

By Samantha Rutt

The Asharoken Seawall, a critical infrastructure element protecting Asharoken Avenue — the only road connecting approximately one-third of village residents and the entire Eaton’s Neck community to the mainland — faces significant degradation. 

Each severe weather event heightens the risk of a catastrophic failure, which could isolate the community and hinder emergency responses.

The call for action to replace the deteriorating seawall has reached a critical juncture as Mayor Gregory Letica, local and federal officials, environmental experts and community members gathered at the Asharoken Village Hall in early May. 

Led by state Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) and Assemblyman Keith Brown (R-Northport), the meeting aimed to address the urgent need for repairs and the development of a long-term solution to protect Asharoken Village and the Eaton’s Neck community from the devastating impacts of severe weather events.

“With the current condition of the Asharoken Seawall, it is imperative we act to protect the residents who are affected every time there is a significant weather event,” Mattera said in a statement. “That is why I worked quickly with Assemblyman Brown to get all the stakeholders together to have an open and honest discussion.”

Brown emphasized the importance of a coordinated approach: “Senator Mattera and I were very pleased with the response from all levels of government to our letter to discuss the condition of the seawall, and the need for action to determine a short-term action plan to make immediate repairs and avoid a catastrophic failure of the seawall while a longer-term solution can be put in place.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also highlighted the collaborative efforts and funding secured for repairs, saying that he was “proud that $2 million in federal funding I appropriated has been secured by the village in recent years to make repairs to the crumbling seawall and plan future protective measures.”

Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1) continued the sentiment of support expressing his commitment to the people of the village: “I am fully committed to working alongside the village, local governments and community stakeholders to find a long-overdue and permanent solution that will improve the structural integrity and 24/7 accessibility of Asharoken Avenue.”

“In January, I testified before the Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources Subcommittee to highlight the situation at the Asharoken Seawall. Recently, I requested the committee to consider policy changes in the drafting of the Water Resources and Development Act to support communities like Asharoken,” LaLota said in an email. 

Though several elected officials are aware of the ongoing issue and have been actively engaged in finding a solution, the seawall project will take several years to implement.

“While I continue to advocate for federal resources, the Army Corps has informed all stakeholders that the seawall and beach replenishment portion of the project will continue to be subject to federal public access requirements, similar to the Fire Island-Montauk Point project and other projects nationwide. Even if the public access impasse is resolved, it would take several years to implement, as the Army Corps needs to conduct a new study based on current conditions to replace the one canceled in 2017. We cannot afford to wait that long,” LaLota said.

What can be done now?

Federal and state representatives continue to explore various mitigation methods. Ongoing efforts aim to secure additional funding and streamline coordination among all levels of government to expedite both interim and long-term solutions.

“Over the past 17 months, we have explored multiple mitigation methods, including restoring the seawall, replenishing sand, bolstering and elevating the road, and implementing an artificial reef to redirect problematic water currents. Additionally, in November, my office provided local officials with potential grant funding options,” LaLota shared. 

As the Asharoken community and Eaton’s Neck residents await these critical improvements, the unified stance of officials and stakeholders showcases a shared commitment to protecting this vulnerable area from future storm impacts and ensuring the safety and connectivity of its residents.

“In the meantime, we see a potential path forward by focusing on areas of consensus, starting with raising and improving the road,” LaLota said of what could be done most immediately to combat the crisis. “To address this issue from all angles, I have submitted requests to secure funding for two police vehicles for the village through the government funding process. Upon approval by the full House, this would free up additional resources for the village to tackle the seawall issue head-on.”

“We will continue to collaborate with the Army Corps, village, local officials and the community to support the residents of Asharoken and Eaton’s Neck every step of the way,” LaLota concluded.