State of the Beach/State Reports/NY/Shoreline Structures
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The New York State Coastal Program is based on 44 state policies that include policies to limit shoreline armoring along the shoreline. Shoreline structures are permitted when the structure will control erosion for at least thirty years. Non-structural measures shall be used whenever possible and rebuilding of shoreline structures is allowed when there will not be an increase in erosion or flooding at the local site or nearby locations.
New York State Coastal Policy 13 states:
The construction or reconstruction of erosion protection structures shall be undertaken only if they have a reasonable probability of controlling erosion for at least thirty years as demonstrated in design and construction standards and/or assured maintenance or replacement programs.
New York State Coastal Policy 14 states:
Activities and development, including the construction or reconstruction of erosion protection structures, shall be undertaken so that there will be no measurable increase in erosion or flooding at the site of such activities or development, or at other locations.
New York State Coastal Policy 17 states:
Non-structural measures to minimize damage to natural resources and property from flooding and erosion shall be used whenever possible. This policy recognizes both the potential adverse impacts of flooding and erosion upon development and upon natural protective features in the coastal area, as well as the costs of protection against those hazards which structural measures entail. This policy shall apply to the planning, siting and design of proposed activities and development, including measures to protect existing activities and development. To ascertain consistency with this policy, it must be determined if any one, or a combination of, non-structural measures would afford the degree of protection appropriate both to the character and purpose of the activity or development, and to the hazard. If non-structural measures are determined to offer sufficient protection, then consistency with the policy would require the use of such measures, whenever possible.
Laws and regulations that affect shoreline armoring include:
- Article 42 Executive Law, Waterfront Revitalization and Coastal Resources Act
- Article 34 Environmental Conservation Law, Coastal Erosion Hazard Areas Act
- Article 25 ECL, Tidal Wetlands Act
- Article 15 ECL, Protection of Waters Act
In Article 42 Executive Law, the State coastal policies allow appropriate structures for water dependent uses and protection of existing public infrastructure if regulatory requirements are met. Article 34 ECL has a variance procedure, which could allow exceptions for hardship cases.
Additional relevant policies/regulations include the Coastal Erosion Management Regulations
At the local level, East Hampton's Program makes it a high priority goal to maintain the dynamic equilibrium of natural shoreline features, including beaches, bluffs, dunes, wetlands and native vegetation, emphasizing the use of non-structural and soft solutions over shoreline armoring. In some instances, the Program even goes so far as to suggest a strategy of managed retreat:
… in order to both maintain natural features and protect homes and other shorefront development, a strategic retreat of development from receding shorelines is the preferred approach for flooding and erosion protection.
In 2007 the Town Board of East Hampton voted to approve new legislation to protect the Town's beaches and coastal resources. While creating a Coastal Erosion Hazard Overlay District, this new legislation had the support of the Eastern Long Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation because it prohibits any new hard erosion control structures from being built on most of the Town's ocean beaches.
East Hampton's resolve in trying to avoid hardened structures along the shoreline is being tested following Superstorm Sandy, which struck in late October, 2012. An erosion control committee appointed by the East Hampton Town Board in December 2012 presented the town with 11 recommendations to deal with the destruction of the beach and dunes on the ocean at Montauk in March 2013. As a first step, the committee recommended immediate beach nourishment, adding a minimum of 50,000 cubic yards of sand from existing local sources to the beach from Ditch Plain through the Montauk commercial district. The town would also seek permits for beach “scraping” — moving sand from the beach to create dunes (during those seasons when sand is naturally deposited) and to install fencing to trap and build up sand. First among the committee’s long-term recommendations is the creation of an engineered 2.3-mile, 200-foot-wide beach for the area. The committee has not ruled out a buyout plan for shoreline properties in peril. In collaboration with the state and with federal agencies, the committee recommended that the town develop such plans with owners willing to sell, perhaps using money from the community preservation fund. Although the committee had previously discussed a revetment along that Montauk stretch of beach, no groins or seawalls are now envisioned. However, as the process of rebuilding the beach and dunes along 2.3 miles could take up to three years, the committee has recommended that the town allow property owners to protect the foundations of their buildings with buried rocks or concrete blocks. At present, only sand or textile geotubes filled with sand are allowed in the ocean zone, under the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. That would have to be amended. The committee has suggested that be done, along with the creation of a new coastal erosion zone, zone five, for the area where rocks and concrete would be permitted.
As of April 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was recommending reinforcing the dunes along the shoreline using geotubes. The project was estimated to cost $6 million, and would involve placing 14,000 geotubes along 3,100 feet of downtown shoreline and trucking in 45,000 cubic yards of sand to cover them. The town would be responsible for ensuring that they remain covered. In January 2015 there was renewed opposition to the geotube plan from Surfrider Foundation's Eastern Long Island Chapter and Suffolk County legislator Al Krupski. Despite this, the project was approved and construction (or should that be destruction?) began in November 2015. Read more. In September 2016 waves driven by Hurricane Hermine severely eroded the beach, exposing the geotubes and leaving a near-vertical wall of sand. The beach was then restored by the Army Corps of Engineers, only to have the same thing happen following a storm in January 2017. See photos below.
In April 2017, East Hampton Town officials stated that the Army Corps would send contractors to Montauk for a second time later in the month to replace thousands of tons of sand eroded from atop the 13,000 sandbags buried in the beachhead along Montauk’s downtown. They will also replace clumps of beachgrass and fencing intended to help hold the sand in place and, eventually, help the sand berm function as an artificial dune. The work will essentially replicate work done by the Army Corps contractors in the late fall—at a cost of more than $700,000 to the federal agency—and almost entirely washed away within a matter of a couple of weeks. Once the work is completed, the Army Corps will hand ownership and responsibility for its maintenance over to the town. But as part of the agreement reached between the Army Corps and the State Department of Environmental Conservation in March 2017, the town will not be responsible for maintaining beachgrass or the 50-foot-wide beachhead seaward of the artificial dune section, as the original plans had demanded. More.
The Long Island Sound Coastal Management Program found that 50% of the Sound’s shoreline is hardened by erosion protection structures -- and building continues.
The 1989 Report titled Proposed Long Island South Shore Hazard Management Program discusses shoreline structure extent in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. New York’s Division of Coastal Resources states that shoreline structures have not changed because of the Coastal Erosion Hazard Areas Act.
Most shore protection is along Coney Island, Rockaway, and Long Beach Islands. From Jones Island, eastward, there are relatively few structures (exceptions are two groins on Fire Island, groins at Westhampton, and four groins in East Hampton, one at Ditch Plains, and the seawall at Montauk). Following is an overview:
- Atlantic Beach/Long Beach Segment- 43 groins from Lido Beach to Atlantic Beach
- Jones Inlet Segment - 3 stone groins at Point Lookout and stone jetty on the east side of Jones Inlet
- Gilgo Beach Segment - No shoreline structures seaward of Ocean Parkway except for Tobay Beach Pavilion
- Fire Island Inlet Segment - Jetty at Democrat Point. Oak Beach has a series of short groins. One-half mile closure dike (called Sore Thumb) built in 1959 across channel adjacent to Oak Beach.
- Ocean Beach Segment - The most common beach stabilization method in this segment is the use of snow fencing to trap wind blown sand. The village of Ocean Beach has constructed two small groins and placed concrete rubble covered with sand to create sand dunes. Many of the beaches in this segment lack protective sand dunes. The coastal homeowners sometimes scrape the beach and pile the sand.
- Central Fire Island Segment - Again, snow fencing is common in this section.
- Fire Island National Seashore Wilderness Segment - No shoreline structures in this section.
- Moriches Inlet Segment - East and West Jetties at Moriches Inlet
- Westhampton Beach Segment - 11 groins were constructed in 1966. 4 more groins were built in 1970 West of the original groin field. Some revetments were built in the 1980s by emergency permitting.
- Shinnecock Inlet Segment - East and West jetties at Shinnecock Inlet
- Coastal Pond Segment - The villages of Southhampton and East Hampton have constructed rock revetments and sheet steel bulkheads to protect homes.
- Napeague Segment - Much of this area is open space. There is not much possibility for future shoreline structures in this area except at the Montauk Point Lighthouse.
- Montauk Segment - Shoreline protection structures are located at Montauk Point and Ditch Plains. Gabions have been utilized at Montauk to protect the tow of the bluff from wave attack and there is a small groin in Ditch Plains immediately east of the East Hampton Town Park.
- On the Bay shoreline - no comprehensive data. There are many structures, mostly bulkheads, but also groins, jetties, finger canals, etc.
- There are data for structures on NY's Great Lakes - available through the IJC's water levels study which is presently ongoing.
NYSDOS Coastal Management staff believes that an inventory would be useful in examining cumulative and regional impacts, but recognizes numerous difficulties in completing such an inventory.
There are a total of 16 groins at Westhampton Beach Village. Completed by 1970, the original groin field, comprising 15 groins, was recently modified to provide a tapered end, resulting in the removal of one large groin and replacement by two successively smaller groins. Four groins, which were constructed in the late 1960s, can be found in East Hampton; the federal government constructed two long groins, and two short groins were constructed by the state. There are two groins in Ocean Beach that were constructed by the State and Village in 1976. No groins can be found on Jones Island, but there are numerous groins on Long Beach Island, Rockaway Spit, and Coney Island to protect the dense development on these New York City and Nassau County barrier islands. Several groins can be located along the north shore of Long Island, but these are generally concentrated in the heavily developed areas toward the west.
A recent development has occurred regarding the groins in East Hampton, NY. The downdrift property owners have filed a suit claiming the groins are causing erosion of their property. They are seeking damages and groin removal or modification. If this occurs, it would be the second example in New York of groin modification to minimize impacts.
In February 2014 U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer announced the details of a $180 million dune and groin protection system for Long Beach, a South Shore community decimated when Hurricane Sandy slammed its shores Oct. 31, 2012. The project entails the construction of a beach berm, dune and groin system to reduce the potential for storm damage along approximately 35,000 linear feet of shoreline, including the creation or rehabilitation of at least 22 groins and the addition of more than 4.7 million cubic yards of sand. The project could start as early as fall 2014. The project will be 100% paid for by the U.S. government, using funds from the $50 billion Sandy relief bill signed into law by President Obama in January 2013.
In December 2016 silive.com reported a proposed buried seawall for the East Shore had received final approval, graduating from the feasibility phase and entering into the design phase, making progress toward its completion goal of 2021. The seawall will extend from Fort Wadsworth to Oakwood Beach, and a levee and floodwall in Oakwood Beach will be built to protect Staten Island from future Hurricane Sandy-like storms. Construction on the $579 million project is slated to begin in spring 2018, with project completion expected in 2021. The federal, state and city governments are splitting the cost -- about $376 million, $145 million and $58 million, respectively.
Private bulkheads exist in many locations. They are often built above the mean-high-water line in order to be outside of Coastal Management Program and federal regulatory jurisdiction, and therefore, are still within state and/or local jurisdiction. New York State has strong home rule regulation, and local opposition to construction of hard shore protection is variable among the towns and villages. Installation of sandbags is occasionally allowed, but only as an emergency (temporary) measure during or immediately after storms. Sandbag revetments and other "soft armoring" are not common in New York. All inlets along the south shore of Long Island have jetties that stabilize inlet location for navigation, but have contributed to changes in the adjacent shoreline. The state has required removal of shoreline structures if they are built on state land without all necessary authorizations.
Under appropriate conditions, private property owners may be allowed to use seawalls, revetments, groins, geotubes, and sandbags to protect their coastal property and structures. State structural responses to coastal erosion are generally limited to revetments and bulkheads. The agencies that have responsibility for permitting and oversight are the Department of Environmental Conservation (regulatory authority), the Department of State (consistency review authority) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.
A report The Cost of Defending Developed Shorelines Along Sheltered Waters of the United States From a Two Meter Rise in Mean Sea Level (Weggel, Brown, Breen and Doheny, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change - Health and Environmental Effects Website notes that Manhattan's 29-mile coast probably could be protected by raising existing bulkheads and sea walls at a cumulative cost of $30-$140 million for a 1-3 foot rise in sea level. The costs of raising existing bulkheads already have begun to accrue, and they could continue throughout the next century.
New York State Department of State Office of Coastal, Local Government and Community Sustainability
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231
Phone: (518) 486-3277
Roman Rakoczy, PE
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Public Education Program
The state uses books, maps, the Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs (LWRP) process, workshops, and public discussions of projects like sand bypassing, to educate the public on coastal erosion and erosion response issues. They depend on ACOE to address public education issues related to large public beach fill projects.
Information on coastal erosion, coastal processes, coastal hazards, and related subjects is available from New York Sea Grant, the Office of Communities and Waterfronts and the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Office of Communities and Waterfronts is working on a training program for local officials to help them better understand the intent and practice of the law and regulations.
An innovative approach to "naturally" guard New York City from hurricanes and storm surge is presented in A Plan To Hurricane-Proof New York, With A Ring Of Wetlands. The concept consists of a soft grade of wetlands surrounding the island that would buffer the city from storm surge, buttressed by a porous street system built to absorb rainfall and channel it back into the harbor. Water, sewer, gas, and electric services would be relocated to accessible, waterproof vaults beneath the sidewalk.
Exploring the possible uses of natural materials such as sand and vegetation for shoreline erosion management was the focus of the Great Lakes Nature-Based Shorelines Workshop in November 2015 organized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Great Lakes Watershed Program, New York Sea Grant, Wisconsin Sea Grant, and other partnering federal, state and county agencies, non-government organizations, and private consultants. Nearly 70 coastal scientists, engineers, planners, managers and agency representatives from throughout the Great Lakes region as well as from the Gulf states gathered in Rochester for the all-day workshop with presentations by engineering and natural resource management experts highlighting the spectrum of “nature-based” shoreline techniques already successfully used or offering potential application in New York’s Great Lakes region. Shown were demonstration projects from a popular stretch of Lake Ontario coastline near Sodus and other key coastal locations outside the state vulnerable to flooding and erosion.
- Fred Anders, NYSDOS, Surfrider State of the Beach survey response. January 9, 2003.
- Fred Anders, NYSDOS, personal communication. June 28, 2000.
- Fred Anders, NYSDOS, personal communication. December 31, 2003.
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