Dredge Spoil + Olivine = A Nourished Beach In North Sea - 27 East

Dredge Spoil + Olivine = A Nourished Beach In North Sea

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The dredging of North Sea Harbor is currently underway.

The dredging of North Sea Harbor is currently underway. DANA SHAW

The dredging of North Sea Harbor is currently underway. DANA SHAW

The dredging of North Sea Harbor is currently underway. DANA SHAW

Coastal erosion expert Aram Terchunian puts olivine into a test tube of natural sand.Councilman Rick Martel and Councilwoman Cynthia McNamara, along with (not pictured) Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni participated in the

Coastal erosion expert Aram Terchunian puts olivine into a test tube of natural sand.Councilman Rick Martel and Councilwoman Cynthia McNamara, along with (not pictured) Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni participated in the "experiment." KITTY MERRILL

Coastal erosion consultant Aram Terchunian and Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray offered an update on the North Sea Beach Colony erosion control district to the Southampton Town Board.    KITTY MERRILL

Coastal erosion consultant Aram Terchunian and Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray offered an update on the North Sea Beach Colony erosion control district to the Southampton Town Board. KITTY MERRILL

Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni examines olivine  samples during the hands on portion of the Southampton Town Board work session.

Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni examines olivine samples during the hands on portion of the Southampton Town Board work session.

Kitty Merrill on May 26, 2022

Question: How many Southampton Town Board meetings feature a “hands-on” experiment?

Answer: Not many.

During their Friday, May 20, work session, members of the board, using test tubes and a funnel, had the chance to compare natural beach sand with sand mixed with the mineral olivine, as coastal erosion consultant Aram Terchunian informed them about a pilot project planned at the North Sea Beach Colony that could help combat climate change.

Beset by incessant beach erosion that chews away their shoreline and sends waves lapping at protective bulkheads, residents of the colony are looking at a project that, if successful, would be the first of its kind in the world.

They’re looking to truck in 500 cubic yards of olivine, a naturally occurring mineral similar to quartz, to add to the dredge spoil they expect to receive from the dredging of North Sea Harbor. Members of the colony, who voted to create their own special erosion control district and generate funding for beach nourishment through a special tax, already have permission to spread some 15,000 cubic yards of sand across their Peconic Bay shoreline. They’ve also gotten the green light from almost all of the permitting authorities and are awaiting the go-ahead from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to add the olivine.

Town environmental analyst Marty Shea has signed off for Southampton. A town wetlands permit has been issued and, said Shea, “There doesn’t appear to be any adverse impacts.”

The material will be trucked to the site, then stockpiled and finally spread across the beach.

Stony Brook University and Cornell Cooperative Extension are collaborating on the project with the international startup Project Vesta, which will cover the $2 million cost of the pilot. If successful, it will serve double duty: rebuilding the beach while reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

As olivine weathers, it removes 1 ton atmospheric carbon dioxide per cubic yard of olivine and permanently stores it in the ocean as dissolved carbon. This dissolved carbon (alkalinity) is safe and beneficial and offsets ocean acidification, Terchunian explained.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman noted that the olivine is sourced in Norway, where it is ground down to resemble sand. If the project moves forward, it will then be transported across the ocean, trucked to North Sea, and spread across the beach.

“All that stuff happens using diesel fuel,” the lawmaker and one time science teacher pointed out.

“It’s still carbon neutral,” Terchunian asserted. Project Vesta scientists have run the numbers, he said.

Terchunian was asked if there were any negative byproducts of the olivine’s weathering, or if it was developed by fracking. The answer to both queries was “no.”

When it was time for the hands-on demo, each board member was given a test tube of natural sand. Using a tin funnel, Terchunian poured olivine into the tube and the elected officials were directed to “shake, not stir,” the tube’s contents.

“You can’t see it’s there,” Schneiderman said, later asking. “Can you build sandcastles with it?”

“Yes,” Terchunian replied. “Better ones.”

None of the members of the board raised objections to the project moving ahead.

The dredging of North Sea Harbor is already underway, and expected to be completed by the first week of June. Southampton Town Trustee Edward Warner Jr. has been the official lasered in on dredging area waters for decades. He recalled that Suffolk County has been handling it “I guess for 50 or 60 years.” Officials there do the heavy lifting, procuring permits from varied involved agencies after the town makes a recommendation for a dredging project.

They do a good job, Warner said, and work under more challenging conditions than they had in the past. Back in the 1970s, the county had two large dredges and was able to work all year round. The dredge crews were “very ambitious,” Warner recalled. They handled projects from intercoastal waterways to creeks and harbors.

But as time wore on and more environmental protections were legislated by the state and federal governments, the dredging window was reduced to just between October and January, with emergency permit waivers sometimes given in the spring.

Of the North Sea Harbor project, Warner worried the change to include olivine could be complicating an already complicated process. He reasoned the best project for the beach colony would use a pipe to pump sand out of the harbor directly to their site.

During the work session, that method was discussed and is being pursued. Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray reported there was an issue with the size of the pipe and officials are working with vendors to resolve it.

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