Rich Defend Beach Homes ... but Put Beach at Risk

Environmentalists complain beach fortifications will increase erosion
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2013 9:19 AM CDT
Rich Defend Beach Homes ... but Put Beach at Risk
Heavy equipment continues working to restore a barrier dune along the Atlantic Ocean in Loveladies on Long Beach Island, NJ, Nov. 9, 2012.   (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many of the uber-rich who have multimillion-dollar beach homes in the tony town of Southampton, NY, are seeking to keep the ocean from their mansions. They've been spending big bucks ($50,000, in one case, and that could be on the low end) to install fortifications—large metal plates or car-sized boulders—on their land. But between that land and the sea sits a public beach, and environmentalists warn that many of those protective measures may actually put that beach at greater risk of erosion. Now, locals are pit against the wealthy summer-only residents, reports the New York Times.

A lawyer for one of the homeowners maintains that all the necessary permits were obtained. But some conservationists counter that the homeowners took advantage of a post-Sandy rule that allowed beach fortifications to be built using irregular standards. A coastal geologist hired by the town's board of trustees tells the Times that the barricades will cause the beach to vanish, and points out that such fortifications are banned in Texas, Oregon, and North and South Carolina. One trustee notes that his childhood home, sold in the 1960s, had bulkheads erected by subsequent owners to protect it; the sand around the metal shield has since washed away, with the wooden stairs that provided access to the beach now hanging five feet above it. (More Hurricane Sandy stories.)

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