Following a sometimes testy exchange last Thursday, September 6, between Councilman Peter Reich and Waterways Management Advisory Council member Marc Wein about what, if anything, should be done about erosion at Reel Point on Big Ram Island, council members agreed to begin with an informal assessment from a New York Sea Grant coastal geologist.
WMAC chairman John Needham told members that geologist Jay Tanski form Stony Brook University would be willing to look at the situation and offer general assessment without cost to the town. The Town Board subsequently, at its Tuesday work session, informally okayed Mr. Needham’s discussions with Mr. Tanski.
The town is considering whether or not Reel Point must be stabilized to prevent a breakthrough between the point and the last residential property on Club Drive. What ruffled feathers between Mr. Wein and Mr. Reich was the latter’s comment that “trying to stop nature from doing its thing is pretty tough.”
Mr. Wein took that to mean that the councilman was opposed to any intervention.
“Why do we allow bulkheads?” Mr. Wein shot back. “That’s combating nature,” he said.
But Mr. Reich, in a follow up telephone interview, commented that he hadn’t meant to imply that no actions should ever be taken to interfere with nature’s path. Rather, he wanted to weigh the specific pros and cons of taking actions to shore up Reel Point.
Mr. Wein told WMAC members at the meeting the downside of not taking action is that “the whole nature of the harbor changes. Once these things go, they often don’t come back,” he said. Without action, if the end of Reel Point is cut off from Big Ram Island, it would change the flow of water into and out of Coecles Harbor and possibly change the saliency of the water that could affect marine life, Mr. Wein said.
“Do you not think it’s a good idea to try to preserve Reel Point?” Mr. Wein asked Mr. Reich.
“We’ll have to look into it,” the councilman replied. “I want to find out what the downside of it is — is it that you can’t drive out there?”
Hoot Sherman of the Peconic Land Trust told WMAC members he favors action to secure Reel Point and he told the Town Board Tuesday that while there’s no immediate crisis, it makes sense to address the issue now before there’s an emergency “and we’re all pulling our hair out.”
Mr. Sherman made similar statements of support for action at Reel Point at the WMAC meeting the week before.
If the initial report from Mr. Tanski recommends action, the WMAC would face the question of how to pay for such a project. Mr. Needham said that while the Town Board is working on its 2013 budget, it might be a good time to ask that $15,000 or $20,000 be included to begin a project. But WMAC member Bill Geraghty pointed out that money remains tight for the town and that the WMAC has money in its coffers from mooring fees that could be allocated to such a project.
“Isn’t this the type of thing that would come out of waterways?” Mr. Wein asked. Others suggested there might also be grant money for such a project.