The inevitable change wrought by Mother Nature is spurring changes at Georgica Beach in East Hampton in light of the destruction caused by storms in 2011 and 2012.
At an East Hampton Village Board meeting last Thursday, Drew Bennett, a consulting engineer working on behalf of the village, updated the board on repairs to be made to facilities at Georgica and Main Beaches.
The road end at Georgica Beach, said Mr. Bennett, was undermined by the surging tide during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and again during Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29. Mr. Bennett proposed repairs to the asphalt road, a split-rail fence, a curb, and the addition of 600 cubic yards of sand. The sand, he said, would “provide some degree of structural integrity and protection of the property. At a minimum, it’s basically what we did a year and a half ago.” A second phase, Mr. Bennett said, would add an additional 2,500 cubic yards of sand to rebuild the dune.
Mr. Bennett said that he and Larry Cantwell, the village administrator, met with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials and are preparing a plan that would be consistent with the agency’s reimbursement policies. These policies aim to avoid repeated damage and promote economic recovery.
Mr. Cantwell said he was encouraged by a Dec. 28 meeting with a FEMA representative, and that he felt that the agency “would seriously consider a larger beach replenishment project, both at Georgica Beach and at Main Beach.” The FEMA representative was “up in the food chain, so to speak, and had quite a bit of experience and was an engineer. He thought we should make a strong case under mitigation from recurring damage as well as for economic recovery, because we explained to him how important our public beaches are — as public facilities, the number of permits we issue, the importance to the culture and economic fabric of the community,” he said.
At that point, the board’s Richard Lawler spoke up. “What about bulkheading the end of the road before we repair it, because that always gets undermined, and that’s what tears up the pavement, eventually. At Main Beach, that didn’t happen at the top of the road because there’s bulkheading there.” He asked Mr. Bennett if he knew the cost of such work and whether or not FEMA would pay for it. Mr. Bennett answered that FEMA may classify such work as mitigation, but that the board should also consider the aesthetic change a bulkhead would represent. “Certainly, if the board feels that that’s the way to go, we could include that in the plans. The cost of that is, in round numbers, probably $30,000,” he said.
Such work would require a permit from the East Hampton Town Trustees as well as the State Department of Environmental Conservation, Mr. Bennett said.
With Memorial Day weekend the crucial deadline to complete such work, Barbara Borsack, another board member, asked, “Would that set us back time-wise if we decided to do something like that?”
“You’d know quickly,” Mr. Bennett replied.
But Mr. Cantwell cautioned against a hasty decision that would have long-term implications on the character of Georgica Beach. “As the level of the beach changes, you would have a hard fixture there. That’s a lot different than what we’re accustomed to having there, aesthetically and otherwise, in previous years.”
“People always object to change, but they do get used to it,” said Ms. Borsack. “It might be something that people don’t like at first but would probably adjust, in a few years, and forget that it was ever not there if we had to put a stair system in there. I think it’s worth looking into, especially two years in a row that we’ve had to do this.”
Bruce Siska, another board member, agreed with Ms. Borsack. “I think we should go with trying to put bulkheading in, like at Main Beach. It would save the road, at least, from getting torn up so if sand goes down a little bit, we can put in stairways. That’s pretty easy to do.”
The bulkheading at the Main Beach road end, said Mr. Bennett, held up through Hurricane Sandy, and resulting damage was minimal compared to that at Georgica Beach. “That was an investment made in the early ’80s, and it really held up great,” he said.
“That sand has maintained its level right up against that bulkheading,” Ed McDonald, the village’s beach manager, said of Main Beach. “It’s pretty impressive that it went through two monster storms and that one structure held up to everything. We should seriously think about putting one down at Georgica.”
Only minor repairs are necessary at Main Beach, said Mr. Bennett. “The building itself actually did quite well. It’s built on piles, above a 100-year flood elevation. The decking is on simple posts that are in the sand, so there is some movement in the deck and some posts that have rolled a bit. The plan is to lift it up, adjust it, tweak it, lock it as best we can to try to straighten it out.” The lattice skirt in front of the deck, as well as the side, was lost and will be replaced, he said, and approximately 150 square feet of cedar shingles were lost. Adding approximately 2,000 cubic yards of sand to the beach would be advisable, he added.
Some jagged edges at the road end will have to be repaired, Mr. Bennett said. The lifeguard shack, which was also damaged, had been in disrepair for some time and should be replaced regardless of Sandy’s impact on it, he added. The village would have to absorb that cost, Mr. Cantwell said.
Eleven of the 12 Sea Spray cottages at Main Beach suffered roof damage between Hurricane Sandy and the northeaster that followed, said Mr. Bennett, and the village will have to consider re-roofing the cottages. FEMA, said Mr. Cantwell, would not cover that repair, but given the rental revenue the cottages generate, maintaining them is a justifiable expense.
Ms. Borsack calculated approximately $400,000 in total costs for repairs to both beaches. Mr. Cantwell predicted that FEMA would cover approximately 75 percent of the total. “That’s an estimate, obviously, but we were successful a year ago in getting reimbursement,” he said. “It depends on how much they’re going to pay for mitigation. All this work qualifies, but they will reimburse the cost of putting back what was there originally, and no more, and we’re doing some more than that.”