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Nor’easter wreaks havoc at Reel Point

Reel Point

Just days after the United States Army Corps of Engineers representatives visited Reel Point to observe previous damage, last weekend’s nor’easter flattened and ruined natural barriers that had been put in place prior to the storm.

Much of the grass planted in previous efforts to help shore up the Point had been ripped from the ground and washed away.

The spit of land that reaches into Coecles Harbor has been a natural barrier protecting millions of dollars of businesses and residences that could be lost if Reel Point is breached. A now thriving scallop industry in the area that provides a living for many area baymen is also threatened. From an environmental perspective, the danger of losing Reel Point also threatens sea grasses on bay and harbor bottoms.

Councilman Jim Colligan, who visited Reel Point after the October 27 storm, estimated that one pile of sand had been reduced by about 50 percent and another had a loss of 10 to 15 percent. What is left of the spine of the land is practically gone.

Town Board members discussed the damage at Tuesday’s work session, concluding that the Army Corps representatives were convinced they could play a role in protecting the Point if their budget allows it.

Deputy Chief of Planning for the Army Corps Steve Couch estimated it could take a month to a year to determine if there could be funding for the project and it could then take two to three years for a project to be undertaken.

After the first nor’easter of the season, the Town Board agreed Tuesday that it needed a partner to fund an initial phase to build up sand and use an estimated $600,000 worth of heavy stones to shore up the eastern side of the Point.

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 had explained to the Army Corps representatives during their visit that financial help would be needed for an initial phase of the project.

Even if the Army Corps undertook a later project to construct a breakwater to lessen wave action at the Point, the town would have to come up with 30 to 35 percent of an overall three-phase project.

Supervisor Gary Gerth is working with his colleagues to craft a letter to the Army Corps outlining reasons why the effort is essential environmentally and for the financial well-being of the town.

Mr. Couch told the board and others who attended the site visit that seeing Reel Point “validates” what town officials have said about the urgency to begin work. He noted that the study by Syosset-based Lockwood, Kessler and Bartlett Consulting Engineers and its sub-consultant, Westhampton’s 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.

The Land Trust owns Reel Point and the town maintains a right of way. But Supervisor Gary Gerth said the organization has “no real enthusiasm for this particular project.”

On Friday, Suffolk County will start dredging of Coecles Inlet around Reel Point in a more extensive effort than had originally been conceived by town officials. It was originally planned that the dredging would be part of the third phase of the project, but spoils from the dredge will be used, especially to shore up the east beach where it’s needed to provide a base for placement of heavy stones planned for the initial phase.

A full story on the Army Corps visit and the project envisioned will appear in a future issue.