Reel Point didn’t breach but questions remain

The mouth of Coecles Harbor the Monday after Superstorm Sandy with Sungic Point in the foreground, where extensive shoaling can be seen, and Reel Point across the channel — wider but flatter and perhaps farther west than it used to be.

One of many worries town officials wrestled with when Superstorm Sandy struck October 29 has been put to rest. At least for now.

What was feared was Sandy leaving in her wake a second mouth of Coecles Harbor from Gardiners Bay. With continued erosion at Reel Point, breaths were held, as Sandy’s historic high tides submerged the isthmus, which protrudes south from Ram Island toward Sugic Point and the Mashomack Preserve.

If the tides had cut a new inlet into the harbor, some officials feared it would lead to a reduction in current, triggering an increase in shoaling in the original inlet. This would further restrict access to boaters, who are already having trouble navigating the channel there because of shifting sands.

With the threat of a breakthrough on the back burner, attention is now focusing on the need for dredging the mouth of the harbor. The channel there is becoming more challenging to boaters because of the relentless southerly flow of sand along Reel Point, some officials say. That process is moving the tip of the point southward into the channel, making the currents faster and deforming the channel.

In a breakthrough of the bureaucratic red-tape variety, the county’s Department of Public Works recently told town officials it has committed its hydraulic dredge to be at the mouth of Coecles Harbor sometime between October 2013 and January 2014, a year from now. Meanwhile, John Needham — who runs Coecles Harbor Marina and is chairman of the town’s Waterways Management Advisory Council — believes something should be sooner.

Mr. Needham says he’ll be asking Town Highway Superintendent Jay Card and the Town Board to consider dredging the inlet this fall or early winter with a crane and a bucket, with half the dredged sand to be deposited on Reel Point to help stabilize it and the other half to be placed on the Mashomack Preserve property to the south, if its owner, the Nature Conservancy, allows.

As for a breakthrough of the isthmus, Mr. Needham said it does not seem likely to him any time soon. He said Reel Point, with its base of stone cobbles as big a grapefruits, looks stable and wider than it was before Sandy — but it’s also flatter.

The isthmus is owned by the Peconic Land Trust, which acquired it as a gift from Herb Stern in the 1990s, according to the Trust’s program adviser Hoot Sherman, who was town supervisor the last time the mouth of Coecles Harbor was dredged in the 1990s.

Mr. Sherman said the Land Trust would take all the sand the town wants to give it to shore up the property.