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Army Corps to consider work at Reel Point

Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Chief of Planning Stephen Couch (left) and First Coastal consultant Aram Terchunian discuss the erosion at Reel Point and a proposal to shore up the land during a visit with Town Board members on Tuesday.

With a proposed town budget of almost $13 million for 2019 and $12.3 million of that in recurring expenses, Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams explained to representatives of the United States Army Corps of Engineers that financial help is needed to shore up Reel Point.

The Town Board accompanied Army Corps representatives to Reel Point on Tuesday to see the erosion occurring at the spit of land that juts into Coecles Harbor. The next step is for the board to submit a letter to the Army Corps outlining the need, plans envisioned and economic and environmental information they hope will win an eventual commitment to partner with the town on the project.

It won’t come quickly and would still involve the ability to pull in another partner — perhaps the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation — to help fund the effort.

Stephen Couch, deputy chief of planning for the Army Corps, told the board and others who attended the site visit and meetings just before and just after the field trip, that seeing Reel Point “validates” what town officials have said about the urgency to begin work. Mr. Couch noted that the study by Lockwood, Kessler and Bartlett Consulting Engineers and its sub-consultant, First Coastal, commissioned by the town and the Peconic Land Trust, is a valuable part of making the case for intervention by the Army Corps.

Peconic Land Trust owns Reel Point on which the town maintains a right of way. But Supervisor Gary Gerth said the organization has “no real enthusiasm for this particular project.” It would be willing to help with reforestation on the site if a project is undertaken.

Town officials and the consultants have maintained that there is a real possibility of a breach at Reel Point that threatens businesses and residences around Coecles Harbor and to historic Taylor’s Island.

Also, if Reel Point were breached, it could result in problems to the Second Causeway that was shored up in 1994 by the Army Corps, but could be breached this time from within Coecles Harbor.

A now thriving scallop industry in the area that provides a living for many area baymen is also threatened. And from an environmental perspective, the danger of losing Reel Point also threatens sea grasses on bay and harbor bottoms.

In advance of this week’s hike along Reel Point, Town Engineer John Cronin outlined an initial three-phase project that the town would undertake. But it needs financial help to purchase the amount of materials needed to complete the work.

Mr. Cronin told the Army Corp representatives that dredging and other efforts to date have resulted in “just shoveling against the tides.”

A full story on the Army Corps visit and the project envisioned will appear in the November 1 Reporter.