East Hampton Town announced Tuesday that it has won a $9.9 million federal grant to buy low-lying properties in the Lazy Point area of Amagansett, under a program designed to eliminate or prevent development in areas prone to severe flooding.
Under the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service emergency watershed protection program, the money will be used to purchase some 16 properties on Mulford Lane and Bayview Avenue, both vacant and developed. Structures on the sites will be demolished so that the natural floodplain can be restored or re-established.
“We are facing the stark reality that development should not exist along some areas of our coastline where long-term erosion clearly exists and flooding potential in low-lying areas can threaten lives and damage property,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a release announcing the grant.
The town was among a number of Long Island communities competing for a portion of the federal grant money.
Mr. Cantwell praised the work of Kim Shaw, the town’s natural resources director, who worked with the Nature Conservancy to reach out to property owners and facilitate the grant. With it, he said in a release, the town can “preserve building parcels that will otherwise be developed and eliminate existing development clearly vulnerable to erosion and future storms.”
The town has recently begun to focus its land acquisition and preservation efforts on coastal areas that are not only vulnerable to flooding but where development can contribute to the pollution of watersheds.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a state law was enacted authorizing the five East End towns to use community preservation fund money, normally earmarked for open space, farmland, historic sites, and parks and recreation, to buy property at risk of coastal erosion or flooding as well.
Following an outreach effort to property owners around Lake Montauk, numerous parcels in the lake watershed are being purchased. A similar outreach to Lazy Point landowners in the spring indicated interest from the potential sellers there as well. Future efforts will target the areas around Three Mile Harbor and Accabonac Harbor.
The area targeted under the federal grant program encompasses all the land east of Napeague Meadow Road in Lazy Point. The objective, according to a town memo, is to “protect and restore the natural floodplain and its functions; protect ground and surface water quality; protect open space, scenic vistas, wildlife habitat, dune lands and vegetation; provide public access to the shoreline, and add to the already protected lands in the area owned by New York State (Napeague State Park), the town, and the town trustees.”
“I think this is a pre-emptive way to deal with problems that we know we’re going to have to deal with in the future,” Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said last spring.
“It’s obvious, what’s happening there,” he said of the eroding shores at Lazy Point, citing the example of a house at the end of Mulford Lane that is actually on stilts above the water. “The acquisition of land, including some improved properties, for floodplain protection and water quality protection are a key component to solving these issues.”
Initial discussions included a potential for the town to contribute $150,000 towards the floodplain purchases, and a $100,000 contribution from the Nature Conservancy through its coastal resilience buyout program.
Properties would be purchased from landowners at values from before recent devastating coastal storms. East Hampton Town would own the underlying land, while the federal agency would own easements or development rights on the properties.
In the press release issued Tuesday, Steve Graboski, one of the owners of a Bayview Avenue property, said, “This will be a good thing because people will be able to reclaim the value from their properties. I’ve lived down there for over 30 years, and the nor’easters are the storms that really affect us the worst. The erosion is like a chip-away effect, chipping away the shoreline over the years.”