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Federal, State Funds Sought for Damage

By Russell Drumm

(12/03/2009)    State, county, and federal officials visited East Hampton on Tuesday to explore the damage caused by the northeast storm spawned by
David E. Rattray
Louse Point took a beating from the storm left over from Hurricane Bill last month. Federal emergency money might be used to fix it.    
Hurricane Bill last month. Early estimates indicate that East End towns will be eligible for both state and federal emergency money to cover the cost of repairs.   

    The storm pounded waterfront properties in Montauk’s Soundview community, and eroded ocean beaches along Long Island’s entire South Shore. Wainscott and Sagaponack were once again especially hard hit.

    On the bay side of East Hampton Town, the storm destroyed about 200 feet of bulkhead at Montauk’s Soundview area, took the end off Louse Point in Springs, while further clogging inlets at Napeague and the Accabonac Harbor Inlet with sand.

     Larry Penny, the town’s director of natural resources, toured damaged areas with officials on Tuesday and watched a bayman try to negotiate the Accabonac Harbor Inlet. “Fred Overton had been scalloping. He could barely navigate the [Accabonac Harbor] Inlet. He said the water was only 15 inches deep. It’s shoaled almost to the marshes before Wood Tick Island, and it’s building islands in the middle of the inlet,” Mr. Penny said.

    The natural resources director said he hoped that because the erosion of Louse Point and the shoaling at the inlet were worsened by the storm, the cost of at least a temporary excavation of the channel and of rebuilding Louse Point could be paid for with state and federal emergency funds. 

    Mr. Penny said the county was tasked with adding up the cost of repairing the damages caused by the northeast storm. “The county has to reach a total before the state will consider emergency funding.” Both the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, and the state equivalent, SEMA, has money available if the estimate for damages throughout the county reaches certain thresholds.

    Joseph Williams, commissioner of the county’s fire, rescue, and emergency services, said yesterday that the damage assessment should be done by tomorrow, or early next week.

    “We’re looking at the cumulative damages countywide. The state needs to see at least $25 million worth of damage in the county. Self-calculations by the towns have already added up to $35.5 million. We should have no problem meeting the threshold,” Mr. Williams said. The commissioner explained that once the state’s threshold for emergency help is met, FEMA money also becomes available. “It goes through the governor’s office then to FEMA, which will come out with the final figures,” Mr. Williams said.

    The last time the county tallied damages for state and federal help was in April of 2007 after a punishing northeast storm. 

    Mr. Williams added that the emergency money could be used to rebuild eroded beaches “back to a five-year level,” and no more. In other words, FEMA and SEMA money cannot be used to add beach as a proactive defense against erosion, only to rebuild it to where it existed before the storm.

    The next hurdle will be obtaining the necessary permits for dredging and rebuilding beaches. “The D.E.C. [State Department of Environmental Conservation] is backed up,” Mr. Penny said. His department has already requested a permit extension to excavate the Accabonac Harbor entrance, which will have to get done before Jan. 15. After that date such work must stop to protect spawning winter flounder.

    Mr. Penny said that emergency money could be brought to bear at Napeague Harbor’s east channel, which is nearly closed by sand accretion, as was the culvert under Gerard Drive in Springs. Blockages at both places were corrected using FEMA money after the 2007 northeaster.

 
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