Having spent nearly $1 million to design, install, and maintain a culvert linking Gardiner’s Bay and Accabonac Harbor, East Hampton Town has allowed it to fill with sand, essentially rendering a giant investment of public money useless. The Gerard Drive project was long envisioned as a way to improve water quality in the harbor by providing it with a second tidal opening. To remain functional, however, the culvert needed the sand, which otherwise would accumulate and shut it off, regularly removed.
For the first time this year, the town did not have the culvert cleared. The explanation was that there had been a conflict over testing with the State Department of Environmental Conservation and that the town’s director of natural resources sought water-quality samples from the harbor without the culvert’s presumed flushing effect. This would give the town a baseline from which to compare whether maintaining the culvert, at a cost of roughly $15,000 a year, was worthwhile.
The decision to skip sand removal this year may have been defensible from a scientific point of view, but it was poor policy. Having sunk so much public money into the project over the years, from taxes and state grants, residents were entitled to a working culvert — or at least an open discussion of its merits and eventual fate.
Accabonac Harbor remains one of East Hampton’s marine ecosystem jewels. Consensus appears to hold that the culvert will help keep it that way. It should be restored to full performance as soon as practical.