By Danny Schrafel
An Army Corps of Engineers representative told Asharoken Village residents and leaders last week that the Corps has narrowed down potential models for a proposed multi-million dollar beach rehabilitation project to two plans, but it continues to insist on public access to the village’s private beaches in exchange for doing the work.
Those comments came on June 30 during a public meeting at the Northport Power Station.
Of the two plans, one would replenish sand on the northern side of the village facing Connecticut. Another would replenish the beach and add three groins, jetty-like stone structures running perpendicular to the land meant to hold sand in place, on the western side of that beach, near the Asharoken seawall.
A third plan, which called for sand, the three westerly groins and eight groins on the east side of the beach, was dropped.
One thing that didn’t change, Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica said, was the Corps’ insistence that public access be provided to the village’s private beaches.
Asharoken residents opposed to the concept liken that to giving the public access to their backyards. Some have argued that preserving the beach provides critical infrastructure access for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and thousands of residents who live in Asharoken and in Eaton’s Neck, and help preserve the endangered piping plover,
That seems to have done little to mollify the agency, though.
“Their stance hasn’t softened one bit,” Letica said.
Calls to the Corps for comment were not returned at press time.
Asharoken resident Steve Mirabile, who attended last week’s meeting, is among about 100 residents who are adamant in their refusal to sign easements giving federal workers access to their properties for the project and have signed a petition on their stance.
Letica has said that if enough residents refuse to sign easements, they could essentially “veto” the project.
“It’s not for us,” Mirabile said. “We need to find other ways to deal with the weather and erosion. We just don’t need them.”
The mayor said he was unsure if the Corps would ever soften their position, but said that if it did, that decision would have to likely come from higher up than the New York State office.
“We’re working with congressman [Steve] Israel to try to affect some change on that… we’ll see where that goes,” the mayor said.
The mayor said that once the Corps signs off on a tentatively selected plan, it will be released for public comment and the village will invite Corps representatives back for another presentation. Following that, the village will hold a public hearing to solicit residents’ input on the tentatively selected plan.
That process, Letica said, should take several months to complete.