SEASCAPE — the concept
It was early in 1982 and the Fire Island National Seashore Advisory Board had finished our work on the Brookhaven Great South Beach Zoning Code, and the first comprehensive set of beach driving regulations for all of Fire Island. The Feds had put in place their ban against using any hard surface seawalls or jetties to control beach and dune erosion. They banned the time honored practice of annual Christmas tree placement behind the snowfence meant to catch and anchor wind driven sand. We started a search for a more effective erosion control device that could comply with the new regulations. A plastic imitation seaweed was being installed and tested at the Cape Hatteras lighthouse in North Carolina, as well as several other locations along the southern coastline. Preliminary reports showed some success and we decided to aim for an experimental installation of SEASCAPE on Fire Island.
SEASCAPE — the project plan
Ron Dobert, one of our FINSAB Directors, and also a FIPPOA Director at the time, did a detailed study of the product, it’s inventor, it’s sales people, and the methods of installation. We approached Dr. Henry Bokuniewicz of the Stony Brook University Marine Sciences Department. He agreed to devise a monitoring plan and schedule for making accurate beach measurements before an after the installation. He also agreed to write an interim report after the installation and a final report sometime after the final beach measurements were taken which would summarize any effects the seascape had on the test area. The inventor, William Garrett, an engineer with the DuPont Company, suggested we use 1000 five foot long pieces, laid out in five parallel rows 1000 ft long and 50 ft apart parallel to the beach, and beginning 100 ft. offshore. We got permission to make the installation 200 ft, by 1000 ft. long at the west end of Fire Island Pines between Driftwood walk and the Carrington property. Ron Dobert obtained the necessary permits.
SEASCAPE — Finally, the installation
After more than two years of fundraising, beach measuring, and paperwork, the time came to schedule the installation. We chose June 1st 1985. Steve Young of Coastline Freight Co. had received the shipment of 1000 pieces of Seascape at his Sayville terminal. His crew had filled all of the units ¾ full of sand and delivered 800 of them to the site on the beach. They loaded the other 200 units onto his scow which would be towed to the site and used to place five rows 50’ apart and 1000’ long parallel to the beach and beginning 100’ offshore. The final bed would measure 1000’ long and 40’ wide starting at Driftwood Walk and extending to the Carrington property. Ken Ruzicka brought his truck mounted with a crane to be used to refill the scow from shore with each succeeding 200 units as each row was laid down. The sea was very rough that day forcing a temporary postponement of the operation. Shortly after, when the seas calmed down, the installation was made. Jay Tanski of the NYS Sea Grant Extension Program, brought some other divers and they monitored the installation from underwater to make sure the positioning was correct. Many people were there to watch and help if needed as well as our FINSAB members, ill Garrett and his wife, newspapers, etc. Our FINSAB ladies served over 100 lunches to the workers and the principle actors. Everything went off very well.
SEASCAPE – the post installation and finale
Shortly after the Seascape was in place, our people again began the beach measurements once a month year round for the next two years. These measurements could now be compared to the base measurements taken during the first two years prior to the installation. Dr. Bokuniewicz kept detailed records and wrote his Interim Report about a year after the installation and his Final Report about a year later at the end of the experiment. His findings showed that seascape was working in the surf very much like snowfence works in the dunes. About two feet of sand had collected and built up making the area two feet shallower. The larger waves from offshore were forced to break farther out making much smaller waves to hit the beach. The Seascape did not deteriorate or break down. There were no adverse effects on the beach to the west. The NYSDEC recommended leaving the site in place after the test. It’s still there today. Dr. Bokuniewicz’s report was forwarded to each Fire Island Community. We’ve never received an inquiry or even an acknowledgement from them, but we did receive inquiries from several Towns and villages on eastern Long Island and Connecticut. Ahh, politics.
Courtesy of FIPHPS Board Member Walter Reich