2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)
Paper No. 33-2
Presentation Time: 1:50 PM-2:10 PM


COCH, Nicholas K., School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College of C.U.N.Y, Flushing, NY 11367, Coch@earthlink.net

Westhampton Beach is located between two stabilized inlets (Shinnecock and Moriches) on a barrier island on the South Shore of Long Island, N.Y. Beach erosion in the 1970's prompted a request for construction of a groin field to trap sand and restore the beach. A plan was developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers to build groins updrift (eastward towards Shinnecock Inlet). However, local pressure (owners of large condominium complexes to the east), forced the groin construction contrary to project design (downdrift towards Moriches Inlet) in order to restore the eastern, more commercial, part first.

Financial limitations later terminated the project before its completion. Unfortunately, the groin field was meant to operate as a completed project and erosion problems developed soon after project termination. As a result, severe erosion and multiple washovers occurred west of the last groin. The major N'oreaster of 1992 resulted in two inlets breaching the island and destroying many homes. The breaches were closed by the Corps before they widened too much for effective closure. The subsequent litigation among the homeowners, County, State, and Federal Government spread over a number of years. A settlement was reached in 1994. The agreement required: 1) trimming the ends of the westernmost existing groins to permit more sand movement, building a groin between the last two structures and filling the groin compartments with pumped sand. 2) replenishing the beach and building a 2.2 mile long, 15 foot high “dune” in front of the houses, and 3) agreeing to restore the beach and any breaches in the island for 30 years after project completion in 1996. The new Village of Westhampton Dunes was formed west of the last groin to administer the restored area.

Westhampton Dunes is now a “model” for coastal restoration, with public access and conservation zones. However, after the beach restoration, former modest beach homes were expanded and new construction involved building of enormous three-story homes in Westhampton Dunes. At a time of sea-level rise on a barrier island between two stabilized inlets, more people, bigger homes, and a great increase in peripheral and appurtenant structures have now been put this area in peril. Is this the end of the beginning…or the beginning of the end for Westhampton Dunes?

2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 33
Identifying America’s Most Vulnerable Oceanfront Communities: A Geological Perspective
Colorado Convention Center: 708/710/712
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Sunday, 28 October 2007

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 39, No. 6, p. 95

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