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Oct 19, 2016 9:30 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Trustees Worry FIMP Will Strip Away Their Control Over Beaches

The Southampton Town Trustees are standing together in their concerns about the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Project. GREG WEHNER
Oct 19, 2016 10:31 AM

The Southampton Town Trustees are urging residents to speak out against the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Project—out of fear that when the plan goes into effect, it ultimately could lead to the Trustees losing their ability to regulate the beaches as they have for 330 years.

Also known as FIMP, the plan calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to spend more than $1.1 billion to build up 83 miles of beaches along the south shore to combat erosion and protect them from future storms. The draft plan includes major beach nourishment projects, rebuilding and long-term maintenance of ocean dunes 13 to 15 feet high, dredging inlets and ocean shoals to provide sand to nourish eroded sections of shoreline, and raising or removing homes in areas under threat of extensive flooding in storms.

Thirty years after finishing the project, the Army Corps plans to step away and hand the beaches back to the local municipalities, or to erosion control districts, which are set up by residents who live in areas susceptible to erosion to pay for beach work. Such districts exist in several places in the town, including at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays and in a stretch from Sagaponack to Bridgehampton, which funded a major beach nourishment project.

“They stated, at that meeting, that in 30 years they are out of the beach nourishment business, and their intent after 30 is just that,” Trustee Scott Horowitz said on Tuesday, referring to a meeting he attended on the matter on September 27 at Stony Brook Southampton.

Mr. Horowitz said the federal mandate is public access for everyone—which raises a problem for the Trustees. Currently, the Trustees’ regulations allow only residents of the town to drive on the beaches. If FIMP goes through as it is written now, Mr. Horowitz said, the beaches could be opened to anyone, not just residents.

“How will we maintain that level of control for even that one activity on our easement?” Mr. Horowitz said.

The Trustees’ easement runs from the toe of the dune to the mean high water mark. “If [the] local municipal erosion control district will be the primary source of beach nourishment, as per the plan in 30 years, it is imperative, for the interest of public access as we currently know it, that the Trustees and the easement we hold for the benefit of the public to be respected, reinforced and integrated into the plan,” he said.

At a Town Trustees meeting on Wednesday, October 12, all five Trustees appeared to agree that they had concerns that their authority could be compromised by FIMP.

Trustee Eric Shultz also said he was concerned that FIMP could open the beaches to everyone, adding that the easement held by the Trustees needs to be documented on everyone’s deeds to help reinforce their case to be recognized.

A written comment period on the draft plan closed this week, and now it is up to the Army Corps to go through the comments and incorporate whatever changes its officials believe are necessary. There will be another round of public comment sessions.

“Every little comment helps,” Mr. Horowitz said. “We are unique, and they have to understand we are unique.”

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said he does not think the Trustees have much to worry about when it comes to their regulatory powers. “There’s nothing in this project that has any impact on the Trustees’ rights,” he said. “My position is that the FIMP shouldn’t have any impact on the Trustees—and I would fight to maintain that.”

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This is a example where the property owners and the trustees should work together to maintain the trustees power while giving the Army Corp the easements they require to implement the project. The Trustees should meet with the ECDs and collaborate a plan. We should be together on this on. Lets all be a friendly bunch.
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Oct 20, 16 2:06 AM
What does their ''losing control of the beach'' actually look like? What on earth have they done? If anyone can point to the accomplishments that their so called ''control of the beaches'' has produced please do.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Oct 20, 16 7:20 AM
2 members liked this comment
Actually what many fail to understand is the army corps does not have easement rights to the dunes and nearshore areas. Dirtbag beach in Montauk with the recent failure of an 8 mil plus project without a major storm should be a wake up call to all.
What we have here is private interests dictating "protection" while also interfering with the public' s right to access the beaches and benefits of nearshore resources. Public always loses.
Since when is anyone including the army corps permitted ...more
By semi local (19), southampton on Oct 21, 16 9:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you !!!
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Oct 22, 16 7:52 AM
The Army Corps has an abysmal record when it comes to projects of this scope. Be very careful here Gentlemen.
By bigfresh (4661), north sea on Oct 22, 16 8:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
I was waiting for your comment on this BigFresh, thank you! Your always so well informed on the issues with the Trustees and the beaches. I appreciate the information you provide to us!!
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Oct 22, 16 8:38 AM
Unfortunately, between the Corps and the courts in recent local cases, the Dongan Patent rights of the Trustees -- in both Southampton and East Hampton Towns -- are being eroded at an alarming rate.

The lawyers will likely argue for years about these theoretical rights, but the ground is becoming less firm with every court case lost.

The broad brush authority of the federal government to respond to emergencies could easily sweep the Dongan Patent into the gutter as an historical ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 22, 16 9:05 AM
2 members liked this comment
PS -- When the large groin field was installed in Westhampton Beach in the 60's (and the smaller jetties in Wainscott) I don't recall the Town Trustees in either Town as having much say in the matter.

Now BTW the groins may be shortened, because they have caused damage down-current?

Doh!

What the Army Corps wants, it will likely get.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 22, 16 9:16 AM
I too hope you are wrong PBR, but sadly your are prob correct. Keep the informative posts coming as it really helps to inform the public on whats really going on . TY !

Maybe the Trustees could hold a forum , so that the public can ask questions and be better informed .

Knowledge is power...
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Oct 23, 16 9:06 AM
The time to ask questions was on 9/27 , at Southampton campus, as the DEC and ACOE were there. A couple of the Trustees attended and voiced concerns for the record and written comments were sent prior to their deadline for the draft of 10/19. Now lets make sure the Trustees and the Dongan are respected and recognized in the plan when the next document is produced. the Trustees are working very hard to preserve public access and the environment for the future generations.
By 007 (45), East Quogue on Oct 23, 16 6:39 PM
Well had I known about this, I certainly would have attempted to go .

I absolutely support our very hard working Trustees and The Dongan Patent.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Oct 24, 16 7:04 AM
yes everybody respects you sc007ty
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Oct 24, 16 8:39 PM