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Jan 13, 2010 10:27 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Trustees trade sand for assistance

Jan 13, 2010 10:27 AM

The Southampton Town Trustees are trading sand for services in an effort to restore a reliable flow of water between Mecox Bay and the Atlantic Ocean that they say is crucial to keeping the bay healthy.

For the third time in the last several years, the Trustees have made an agreement with a local dune restoration company, First Coastal of Westhampton Beach, to excavate thousands of tons of sand from the flood plain along the southern boundary of the bay where a narrow channel is dug periodically to let the brackish water from the bay flow out and sea water to flow in. The agreement trades the excavation work for the sand that is removed, which can then be used to rebuild dunes in front of private homes in Bridgehampton, Sagaponack and Water Mill.

The Trustees say the barter arrangement saves the town tens of thousands of dollars and provides an environmentally sound way to protect homes from erosion along the oceanfront. It is also likely an economical move for the company that takes the sand, which can cost $15 to $20 per cubic yard when purchased.

“When we had a hurricane last summer, at the end of August it brought an enormous amount of sand into the bay,” Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer said recently. “We worked this deal with First Coastal and Steve Mezynieski to clear a new channel to deep water. It’s a wonderful deal for the town financially. They’re doing the work for the sand, basically.”

Mr. Mezynieski’s firm does the actual excavation work under the guidance of coastal engineers from First Coastal, which will use the sand to rebuild eroded dunes in front of their wealthy clients’ homes. The agreement with the Trustees requires that the sand be used only for dune building along the ocean and within the town.

“It’s perfect sand for using on dunes—it is dune sand,” said Billy Mack of First Coastal.

Mecox Bay receives millions of gallons of fresh water a day through groundwater seepage and rain runoff and must be opened to the ocean several times a year to prevent flooding of homes and septic systems that border it and to raise salinity levels for valuable shellfish stocks that live in its muddy bottoms. It costs the Trustees $1,000 each time the cut is dug through the strip of beach that typically separates the bay and the ocean.

But in the last several years, a broad delta of sand has built up inside the bay near where the cut is dug and has choked off the flow of water before the bay can empty sufficiently, Mr. Havemeyer said. The Trustees have had to dig the cut more often to keep the bay levels down.

The Trustees have a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clear a 1,200-foot channel, Mr. Havemeyer said, from the beach into the bay. Mr. Mack said they have thus far cleared a 500-foot channel.

Mr. Mack said that because of the incredible volume of sand in the bay, his company may seek to purchase additional sand beyond what is dug out of the new channel. Mr. Havemeyer said the Trustees will be eager to get as much of the sand out of the bay as possible, though he said they may want to keep some of it in reserve to rebuild dunes that once fringed town-owned W. Scott Cameron Beach.

For the time being, much of the sand has been piled into mounds on the beach near the cut, to be trucked to properties when calm seas allow easier working on the beaches.

The digging and dune building work can be done only in the winter, as many of the beaches in the area are closed to any kind of mechanical traffic after April 1 to protect nesting piping plovers, a federally protected shore bird.

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Why doesn't the trustees give the sand to the highway dept. to replace the sand used during the snow storm? It would save the highway dept. thousands of dollars
By LUVSH (28), Southampton on Jan 17, 10 10:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
Does the sand used to build dunes in front of their "wealthy clients’ homes" in any way lilmit access of the rest of us? Are the Trustees watching carefully to ensure that our right of "pass and repass" (Dongan Patent) is being honored when this work is done?
By SusieD (109), Southampton on Jan 19, 10 10:23 AM
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