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Stop the Sea? Never

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 18:14


So the town wants to put sand onto the depleted Ditch Plain Beach. The question has to be: Then what? Ditch and most of the town oceanfront is receding. In these conditions, sand, almost by definition, washes away. Does the town have to pay millions a year once it’s made a tacit commitment to the Ditch property owners to protect their valuable assets? Or does it instead decide that the time has finally and at long last come to do the right thing? The only long-term viable and cost-effective solution to coastal erosion is abandoning the danger zone.

Though for decades littoral scientists and farsighted public officials have said that retreat is inevitable, next to nothing has actually changed. The cost is low to conduct a study or hire outside consultants to declare “Move back!” But then the price tag for a likely compensation for waterfront property owners inevitably frightens off even those political leaders with the best intentions.

At the moment, trucking sand to Ditch Plain Beach for the coming summer will cost somewhere between $3 million and $5 million. East Hampton Town officials say they have asked Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office to consider splitting the cost — but again, for how long will a governor and Legislature be willing to help? And taxpayers statewide, what of them? At some point the money will disappear, or a catastrophic hurricane sweeps in, making the decision for the town that the landward march of the shoreline is ultimately unstoppable.


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