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Dredging buying time at Reel Point

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Spoils from the dredging taking place at Reel Point this week are being deposited for use in later stages to shore up the area that protects businesses and houses around Coecles Harbor.

The topsy-turvy approach to saving Reel Point — dredging at the start of the effort rather than being part of the final phase — may have bought some time in the process, according to Town Engineer John Cronin.

When Suffolk County assessed the project, the plans called for less extensive dredging than took place the past week, Mr. Cronin said.

Mr. Cronin said he agrees with plans to join the Reel Point project to an evident need to shore up the Second Causeway project that the Army Corps of Engineers completed in 1994.

With the recent nor’easter that battered the Island, the causeway flooded, blocking access between the Rams and the rest of the Island for at least a couple of hours.

With the Army Corps representatives’ recent visit to Reel Point, there was discussion about the importance of preventing storm water from washing over the causeway from within Coecles Harbor.

That was a point emphasized by Supervisor Gary Gerth in a letter to the Army Corps  following the October visit to the site.

“As Reel Point continues to erode, more recent nor’easters have demonstrated the linkage between stabilizing it and maintaining the viability of the 1994 Causeway project,” the supervisor wrote.

The October storm demonstrated there’s a need at both sides of the causeway for remediation to keep the roadway passable, Mr. Cronin said.

“We bought ourselves some time,” he reiterated, referring to the extensive dredging that removed some 20,000 cubic yards of material that were blocking the entrance to Coecles Harbor. The placement of the spoils probably raised the height on the land mass to 12 feet.

That’s not the ideal of 15 feet, but it puts Shelter Island ahead of the game from where it was before the dredge, Mr. Cronin said.

He noted that his observations and estimates are based on many years of average storms. Given that this initial nor’easter of the 2018-19 season was both early and brutal, there’s no way to absolutely predict how much time might have been gained.