Shelter Island doesn’t own Reel Point and so what should its involvement be to protect it from erosion?
It’s a question town officials have grappled with, finally concluding, on the advice of Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr., that if taking no action threatens properties around Coecles Harbor, public money could be spent to protect them.
Reel Point is the spit of land jutting from the southern tip of Big Ram Island, a natural barrier that once guarded Coecles Harbor and the homes and businesses that line its shore from high seas and destructive storms.
Businesses in the area that could be affected if Reel Point were to be totally eroded include Coecles Harbor Marina, Clark’s Marina, The Ram’s Head Inn and CH Marine Yacht Builders.
Failure could also destroy private properties on Ram Island and the Pandion luxury residential development being constructed on the former St. Gabriel’s site.
The area continues to be threatened — as it has been in the past — by unimpeded waves moving westward from Point Judith, Rhode Island, gathering strength across 40 nautical miles before making a landfall on Shelter Island.
No one argues the reality that losing Reel Point would be devastating.
For that reason, Shelter Island is ready to invest resources, specifically, staff from the Public Works Department, to provide labor for restoration and reconstruction.
Engineers from First Coastal Corporation of Westhampton Beach and LKB Consulting Engineers of Syossett produced a comprehensive document outlining a multi-million dollar process they said would provide a long-range solution.
But town officials are still working out details to scale back the proposed steps to a manageable and affordable few. In addition, town officials are still waiting for word in March from Peconic Land Trust (PLT), the nonprofit that owns Reel Point, about what the PLT will contribute to costs of the project, according to Councilman Jim Colligan.
The town’s Capital Budget/Grants Committee has suggested that Supervisor Gary Gerth meet with PLT founder John v.H. Halsey to discuss PLT’s commitment to a project to save Reel Point. The conversation would mostly center on financing the project.
The town and PLT shared the $42,500 cost of a study conducted by the consultants. The decision to hire them came after the failure of several dredgings around the tip of Reel Point to open up the channel and to use the spoils to try to shore up the rest of the area.
The spoils were too light and washed away with storms, flowing back to the dredged area.
Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. and Town Engineer John Cronin are looking to acquire affordable heavy cobble stones — a major component of the project — and to outline the specific steps to be taken to shore up Reel Point. The men expect to bring some numbers back to the Capital Budget/Grants Committee this month about what the project would cost in materials and labor costs associated with having work done by Public Works Department staff.
They’re exploring using the stones held in place with steel to shore up the eastern side of Reel Point and using vegetation and sand fencing to trap sand in spots, nourishing the beach area with grasses, reinforcing dunes with rock and removing or modifying shoreline structures.
By securing the stones the same way it was done more than 15 years ago on the Ram Island Second Causeway, the hope would be to experience the kind of success that has withstood major storms there, according to Waterways Management Advisory Council member Marc Wein.
“We’re trying to strike a balance between cost and effectiveness, honoring a full understanding of all coastal dynamics affecting the Point,” Mr. Cronin said. “In the end, we may follow an approach that utilizes [materials] in a manner not unlike what [Mr. Wein] suggested.”
Supervisor Gary Gerth has met with staffers representing Congressman Lee Zeldin to discuss remediation of Reel Point and appeal for financial aid.
The town’s grant writer, Jennifer Mesiano Higham, is working with the town’s grants committee to explore other sources of money.
Matt Swain, a stewardship manager of the PLT, has been supportive of the draft report. But the PTL has yet to commit funds toward the project. Mr. Swain has said, according to Mr. Colligan, that the PLT could apply for grants and solicit contributions.
There was talk last year about the possibility of the taking ownership of the property from the PLT, Former supervisor Jim Dougherty strongly recommended against such a move and Mr. Card said he valued the stewardship role PLT took in maintaining Reel Point.
Today there appears to be no appetite for any change in ownership with the land fitting the PLT’s mission statement: “We work to conserve Long Island’s working farms, natural lands and heritage for our communities now and in the future.”
Its work has resulted in protecting 12,000 acres of land.