2013-04-04 / Front Page

Restoration plan put on hold

Mackerel Cove will not get new beach grass this year
By Margo Sullivan

Plans to root beach grass at Mackerel Cove have been delayed after the town was told there is a shortage of plants due to an increased demand from East Coast beach communities that were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. 
Photo by jeff mcdonough Plans to root beach grass at Mackerel Cove have been delayed after the town was told there is a shortage of plants due to an increased demand from East Coast beach communities that were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Photo by jeff mcdonough A shortage of beach grass has aborted the town’s efforts to revegetate the dune at Mackerel Cove Beach, the Town Council learned at its Monday meeting. A complementary plan to fight erosion by eliminating six parking spaces at the eastern end of the beach was also dropped.

“Beach grass is not available at this time due to excess demand by hard-hit East Coast beach communities,” said Town Administrator Bruce Keiser.

In January, the councilors agreed to remove the parking spaces and go along with the Conservation Commission’s plan to extend the dune and plant grass at the eastern end of the beach. The hope was that moving the cars off the beach would help the vegetation take hold, protect the dune, and give the beach time to restore itself.

The commissioners had consulted state geologist John Boothroyd over the summer about controlling beach erosion. Then on Oct. 30, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage to the barrier beach.

On Jan. 22, the councilors directed Town Engineer Michael Gray to follow the Conservation Commission’s lead. The council opted to go along with the commission’s approach over objections from several residents who complained the efforts would not work.

Now, the town will be unable to plant the beach grass, Keiser said.

Councilor Blake Dickinson, who had expressed misgivings earlier about reducing the parking spaces at the beach, asked Keiser if the town could now delay the decision due to the fact there would not be any plantings.

“Is there a way to keep the parking spots?” Dickinson asked.

“Yes,” Keiser replied. The parking changes will be postponed until next year.

Gray said town workers might be able to plant beach grass in the fall or next spring. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to contribute $9,000 to pay for the plantings, known as dune plugs, and the money will still be available when the grass becomes available.

Council President Kristine Trocki pressed Gray “for a little bit more of an overview” on the plans for Mackerel Cove.

“We’re not leaving it the way it is,” she said.

No, Gray said, but the first step will be to install a new fence between the dune and the parking area. According to Gray, FEMA will pay for about 200 feet of the fence. He said the reimbursement is only for the fence section that was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy.

“We have to get the fence in,” Gray said. “Then we will spread the sand and reclaim what we can out of the parking lot.”

But despite the best efforts of the Public Works Department, the beach at Mackerel Cove will appear different to people, Gray said.

“It’s not just the dune that’s gone,” he said. “The beach profile is different.”

Before the hurricane, Gary said the beach had a “nice slope up to the dune.” Now, that contour is gone.

Gray said past conservation panels had taken steps, such as installing snow fences at Mackerel Cove Beach. Those efforts might have to be repeated now.

“Maybe those measures will have to be implemented again,” Gray said. “Whatever we can grade and create, we’ll create.”

During open forum, the councilors heard an idea from resident Walter Boll to stop erosion by planting beach plum trees. Boll said he has seen the beach plum trees in Far Rockaway, N.Y. He said he has found these plants to flourish in sand dunes.

“At various locations all along the barrier southern islands of Long Island, these trees flourish in conjunction with salt grasses, poison ivy, beach tomatoes, various thistle, vine type plants and bladderworts,” he said.

Boll wrote on a map he prepared showing the best places at Mackerel Cove to plant the beach plum trees. He said late spring or early fall are the optimal times to transplant the trees.

“Early October at the latest,” he said.

Councilor Eugene Mihaly said maybe the town would decide to try Boll’s plan to control the beach erosion.

Also, the council accepted in correspondence a newspaper article from Frank Meyer about the CRMC’s oversight on dune restorations. Meyer had asked for caution about restoring the dune at Mackerel Cove in light of fines that the Coastal Resources Management Council can assess if the dune restoration does not conform to guidelines.

In other business, Keiser reported FEMA has reportedly decided not to reimburse the town for repairing the Bayview Drive embankment.

“While we do not have written confirmation, Mike Gray is informed that FEMA has determined that the riprap installation at Bayview

Drive is ineligible because no town infrastructure was damaged,” said Keiser.

Keiser has contacted Jamestown’s congressional delegation for help reversing the decision. The job is expected to cost about $250,000.

He also asked the congressional delegation to help appeal another FEMA decision that disqualified Jamestown from reimbursement for snow removal during the February nor’easter.

According to Keiser, overtime costs for police and public works employees related to the storm amounted to $17,960. He then put that expense into perspective by noting the entire annual budget for snow-removal overtime was only $22,000.

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