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Beach Protection Act Buoyed By Local Support

Originally Posted: June 24, 2008

Mariah Quinn

Cooper’s Beach in Southampton was named one of the best beaches in America by “Dr. Beach.” Local officials gathered at the beach on Monday to commemorate the honor and call for tighter water quality restrictions. Photos by Mariah Quinn

Southampton - It was a day at the beach for a number of local politicians, including Congressman Tim Bishop, Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley, and representatives from the Southampton Town Board, who gathered at Coopers Beach in Southampton Village on Monday morning for a press conference honoring the beach's status as one of the best in the nation.

Congressman Tim Bishop held a press conference at Coopers Beach in Southampton
on Monday to talk about the Beach Protection Act, which he co-sponsored.

Bishop used the press conference to call on the Senate to pass the Beach Protection Act, a bill he co-sponsored with Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey, which calls for the tightening of water quality testing standards. The bill ups the amount of federal money for water quality management from $30 to $40 million, and speeds up the public notification process for contaminated waters. Under provisions of the act, water quality results will be available in six hours, and the public and necessary agencies are notified within 24 hours of beach closures. Such standards are meant to reassure the public that they are "swimming in water that will not cause adverse health effects," Bishop explained.

Bishop emphasized the economic and recreational importance of clean beaches, including Coopers, which he described as "spectacular." Coopers Beach in Southampton and Main Beach in East Hampton were recently named the fourth and sixth 'best beaches' in the country, respectively, by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, also known as "Dr. Beach," the director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research. Topping the list was the beach at Caladesi Island State Park, in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area of Florida.

"Coopers Beach scored exceptionally well in all 50 categories that I use for rating beaches, especially environmental management," Leatherman said in statement.

Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, flanked by colleagues Anna Throne-Holst and Daniel Russo, said she often "marveled" at the beauty of Coopers Beach.

Southampton Village Trustee Paul Robinson said he would visit the beach
first, and his parents second when coming back to Southampton on vacations
from college.

The hometown politicians were more effusive. "We personally believe this is the number one beach," Mayor Epley said. Village Trustee Paul Robinson noted when he came back to Southampton during vacations from college, his first stop wasn't at his parents' home - it was "to see the beach."

Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who called the beaches one of area's "greatest assets," said she frequently "marvels at the white, white sand and how the good Lord laid it all down."

Coastal areas, which draw two billion visits per year, bring in 85 percent of all U.S. tourism dollars, according to information provided by Congressman Bishop's office. Between 350,000 and 400,000 visit official Southampton Town beaches every year, according to Allyn F. Jackson, the superintendent of the town's Parks and Recreation Department. That number is "probably a conservative estimate," Jackson said, because a large number of people park at unofficial beach access roads. The town sells 40,000 beach permits each year.

Though Bishop said it was difficult to predict when the Senate will vote on the Beach Protection Act he said he believes there is widespread support for the bill, which passed the House unanimously. "That doesn't happen except when we're naming post offices," he noted.

Southampton's beaches are an important economic and recreational draw for tourists visiting the region.

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