Town planners concerned at size of Wading River bluff fix

COURTESY PHOTOS | Stairs leading up to Camp DeWolfe before and after Hurricane Sandy.
COURTESY PHOTOS | Stairs leading up to Camp DeWolfe before and after Hurricane Sandy.

Town Planning Board members plan on holding a public hearing on what one town planner called “the largest erosion control project this board has ever looked at,” a plan to bring over 5,000 cubic yards of material to a camp on the Long Island Sound in Wading River.

Following serious storm damage over the past couple of years, Camp DeWolfe in Wading River is proposing to build a 683-foot revetment to stabilize the camp’s Long Island Sound bluff, which had been badly damaged during hurricane Sandy.

To do so, the Christian camp, owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, will need to bring 5,500 cubic yards of material to the site, making 300 trips back and forth along the beach over a 10 day period, according to Joe Hall, an environmental planner for Riverhead Town.

“This is without question, by far the largest erosion control project this board has ever looked at, so it rises to a level of concern unexperienced by this board and myself,” Mr. Hall said at a Planning Board work session to discuss the project on Thursday.

The camp has said it lost more than 40 feet of the bluff it sits on horizontally and 60 feet of bluff vertically in some places, and that this destabilized the plant life higher up on the bluff, which continues to erode. Program Director Emma Tees said on Friday the project is 20 years overdue.

The town is concerned about the effect the heavy trucks carrying that material will have on the roads leading to the beach, on the boat ramp at the town’s Wading River Beach, and on beach access leading to the camp’s bluff, namely because the town and the homeowners just east of the town’s Wading River Beach were recently involved in a lawsuit regarding beach rights. A settlement was reached in which the town agreed to enforce trespassing on those properties landward of the mean high tide mark, which is considered private property.

The lawsuit was filed by several owners of property that front Long Island Sound. They claimed the town was neglecting to enforce rules stating that the portion of the beach landward of the mean high tide mark is private property. The trucks bringing material to the camp site would have to travel past those same homes to get to the camp’s property.

A Nov. 2012 update on the Camp’s website stated: “If you are familiar with Camp DeWolfe, you will know that Benson house, the pool chapel and Lodge 1 were already within 30 feet of the edge of the bluff, a line which grows closer with each rain storm. This past winter a land survey was conducted and determined that within the next five years, camp facilities would be in danger of falling into the Long Island Sound.”

The update said the camp planned to put into place hundreds of five-to-10 ton boulders, anti-erosion control netting, and to follow that by planting native species along the entire toe of the bluff to stabilize it.

Tim Rumph, a landscape architect working on the project for the camp, said they had considered bringing in the rocks by a barge in the Long Island Sound, but ultimately decided on trucking the material.

The camp property has no erosion control protection currently, he said.

Mr. Rumph said he has also recently met with officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and toured the site with them.

“They want us to answer a lot more questions (about things) that were shown on the plans we submitted to them,” Mr. Rumph said. “So we’re beginning a dialogue with them.”

Planning Board vice chairman Joe Baier suggested the board hold a public hearing on the proposal. The board will come up with a date at a later meeting.

“My thought on that is, you’re going to be crossing so many property lines, and because of the settlement, that we should have a public hearing so that at least the landowners that would be passed by (the trucks) could have an opportunity to at least know this may be going on,” Mr. Baier said.

“It would certainly provide notice to these people and they would have a chance to air their concerns and grievances,” Mr. Hall responded.

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