Overcrowded Anchorage: Cooperation Necessary

Beyond the breakwater, things get wooly

A request from Sag Harbor Village to the East Hampton Town Trustees to discuss ways to manage an all-but-unregulated seasonal anchorage is an example of how demands on the area’s natural resources and infrastructure have outpaced government control.

What prompted Sag Harbor’s request to the town trustees was the expanding presence of private vessels kept on moorings or anchored for a night or two beyond the village breakwater. At present, the village has jurisdiction only within the breakwater, where moorings are strictly regulated and waste pump-out boats are available. 

Beyond the breakwater, things get wooly. According to a member of the Sag Harbor Waterways Committee, as many as 70 boats at a time might be found off Havens Beach and east toward Barcelona Neck. Some have broken loose in storms and washed up, becoming the village’s problem. Others have been known to illegally discharge sewage. Then there is the question of boaters coming ashore in Sag Harbor for shopping, services, and even to dispose of garbage, adding to an already crowded community in the busy months. “We’re getting the brunt of it,” the village harbormaster said. 

State Assemblyman Fred. W. Thiele Jr., whose other paying job is Sag Harbor Village attorney, recently introduced a bill in the State Legislature that would expand the area under village control from the current 1,500 feet from shore. But 1,500 feet is also the distance that East Hampton Town Trustee jurisdiction extends. This means that a cooperative approach is necessary no matter where a new line might be drawn.

Mr. Thiele is in an odd position, particularly since the bill he sponsored on behalf of the village could be seen as a land-grab attempt against the town trustees, whose interests he is also supposed to represent as a member of the Assembly. To avoid questions of an ethical nature, Mr. Thiele should swiftly seek to have his bill withdrawn. 

Meanwhile, Sag Harbor officials and the town trustees are continuing to talk. This is good. The waters beyond the breakwater cannot continue to be a no-man’s land, regardless of which local government asserts authority in the end.