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7. Protecting Sound Bluffs

Question 7: Bluff protection: Do you support the use of landscape retaining walls to protect Sound-front bluffs? Can we get your support vs. the DEC?


Albie Dekerillis

Albie DeKerillis: I would have to consult my trustees if elected and come to reasonable conclusion.

Albert Krupski Jr.

Albert Krupski Jr.: In 1991 the Town Board adopted the Coastal Erosion Hazard Area and changed the wetland code, which expanded the jurisdiction of all activity on the Bay and Sound to the Trustees.

I was a Trustee in those days, and we became quick learners in the dynamics of the coastal erosion process. My experience in this subject shows that bulkheads and retaining walls harden the shoreline, affect beach elevation, and are the last resort to protect upland property. Natural plantings are encouraged, but do not supply the same protection as a bulkhead or retaining wall. As Trustee President, I signed many permits for shoreline retaining walls where upland property was in danger from storm events.

Christopher Talbot

Christopher Talbot: I would look to and support the Trustees in regard to this issue.

Jeri Woodhouse: Yes or no is too simplistic a response to the question posed.
First of all, all sound-front bluffs are not created equal. Secondly there have been enough instances where landscape retaining walls have led to increased hardening of shorelines, scouring, bluff collapse, etc, to support a blanket approval (of retaining walls). I would err on the side of caution, evaluating each location and each alternative (from naturally occurring and native plants, trees and shrubs, to sand, rocks, and boulders) on a case by case basis using most up-to-date scientific-based analysis, to determine how best to prevent erosion and ensure bluff protection.

To be perfectly clear, this is not my area of expertise (and I am not seeking a position as town trustee) but I open to hearing about your concerns and am most willing to listen to opposing points of view in order to formulate an informed opinion on this subject.

(As far as the second part of your question goes, I would need more information – DEC is too broad…what exactly are you seeking support for?)


Louisa P. Evans

Louisa P. Evans: I support landscaping to protect sound front bluffs. Planting vegetation such as rosa ragosa to protect bluffs has proven to be successful in many areas. Currently, the DEC supports the use of beach grass as a way to protect the erosion of bluffs. Hardened retaining walls tend to shift and magnify erosion to neighbors. I support vegetative retaining walls when they will not cause damage further along the bluffs.

Dan Ross: Regarding the hardening of the shore line, difficult problems do not lend themselves to short answers. An issue similar to the one posed by your question arose while I was on the town board. The
dredging or, more accurately the non-dredging, of the town creeks became an issue as a result of new federal regulations and the County and DECs application of those regulations. I was asked by waterfront
owners to help deal with the issue. I studied the problem which was complex because of the involvement of various levels of government. I came to the conclusion that the dredging issues could not be properly
addressed as they had been in the past and a focus group was needed. Neither the Trustees or the Town Board could address the issues properly. I drafted a resolution to create a Dredge Committee which was
adopted and the committee was formed. Membership on the committee was designed so the issue could be addressed. Difficult issues require consistent and prolonged attention and that is how I approach difficult issues.


David Bergen

David Bergen: The need for bluff protection is different depending on whether the property is in an area exposed to high wave energy. It is a fact that all properties along the Sound incur high wave energy and as
such, these properties are required to armor their bulkheads. There are some areas in the bays where this armoring is strongly recommended. Properly engineered, retaining walls can also provide bluffs with protection. I have seen retaining walls on bluffs in the bays which have been very successful in protecting the property and last for a very long time. I have also witnessed various very elaborate retaining walls fail on bluffs along the Sound where their failure resulted in the catastrophic loss of land. So there is not
simple “yes/no” answer to this question. Each property must be looked at individually to determine whether a retaining wall is appropriate for the location. If the Trustees believe that one is appropriate, and the DEC disagrees, then we need to open a dialogue with the DEC so that both agencies can discuss the matter and possibly come up with an amicable solution. I can recall one such meeting taking place on a property in New Suffolk where we reached a solution which was acceptable to both the DEC and Trustees, and more importantly, was acceptable to the applicant.

John Bredemeyer

John Bredermeyer: I have no problem with retaining walls provided that they will not infringe on public access, are capable of being maintained and will not become hazards to humans or navigation. Accordingly, they may not always be suitable for all locations in the town. As a Trustee I will always listen to your concerns. I believe that the Trustees are duty-bound to protect their citizens from arbitrary acts and rule
making of others, including, but not limited to, the state.

Jill Doherty: Bluff protection remedies are different for each property. Something that would work on the bay, may not work on the Sound. The Sound has higher density of wave action, therefore requiring armor in
front of the bulkhead. Cutting back a bluff and plantings in addition to toe protection is one solution that has worked on some properties, but has failed on others. This is why it is very important for us to look at each individual property to assess what needs to be done. Very often we look to experts to assist us in our decision making. In the time that I have been on the board, we have made it a priority to communicate effectively with the DEC. This often includes basically being an advocate for the applicant. I have met the DEC on sites numerous times and will continue to work through difficult situations to come up with an amicable solution for all.

Candidates for Trustee: Ed Harbes, Audrey Horton and Karl Spielmann did not respond to our questions. Candidates who did not respond before press time are welcome to add their answers below using the comment box. SoutholdVOICE members are also welcome to post their comments below. Please stay on topic and start new topics in the forum! Thanks.

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