Rising sea levels and erosion have caused severe damage to Asharoken Avenue, the only road into or out of the Village of Asharoken. These conditions continue to endanger the lives and property of the people that live in Eatons Neck. Yet, despite the potential benefits from a multi-million dollar federally funded project that will protect Asharoken Avenue, the Village remains steadfast in its attempts to wall off the beach to Village residents only, even though the waterfront protection project is being funded by state and federal taxpayer dollars.
Since colonial settlers arrived on these shores, the residents of Long Island have had their beach rights protected. Now, it seems, in a process that has lingered for years, the Village is attempting to characterize this federal project as merely roadway protection with no provision for the general public to access the beaches, despite the fact that the general public is paying the lion’s share of the costs.
The proposed protection of Asharoken Avenue by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) is basically a beach renourishment project. Federal law requires public access wherever the Army Corps performs beach protection or renourishment, yet many Village residents and beach lot owners remain vehemently opposed to public access to their properties.
As the sea level rises, the Village Trustees are now being forced to think about what needs to be done with ever increasing cries for help from homeowners and public officials. The end result may be the Army Corps using the power of eminent domain to protect the public’s right to the shoreline. It remains to be seen if the Village can have its cake and eat it, too.