Six weeks after several baymen insisted that Accabonac Harbor had to be dredged, and quickly, the East Hampton Town Trustees agreed on Monday to hire Patrick Bistrian, an East Hampton excavation contractor, to get the work done. Excavation began yesterday.
The fishermen who, at a Jan. 30 meeting, urged the trustees to take action, told them that shoaling had narrowed the east channel, which opens to Gardiner’s Bay, to a width of around 10 feet and would soon close it entirely. Sand that has clogged the culvert under Gerard Drive, which was constructed to increase water circulation in the harbor, will be excavated after the dredging is completed.
The dredging is going to have an added benefit: the withdrawal of a lawsuit by Louse Point Road property owners who had sought to construct a rock revetment on the beach to protect their properties from erosion. The trustees, who own most of the town’s beaches, bottomlands, and waterways on behalf of the public, denied their request for a revetment in 2014, as did the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals. Now, the excavated material, or spoil, is to be placed on the beach in front of their properties, providing a buffer, at the owners’ expense.
At the high end of estimates provided by Mr. Bistrian, the dredging of the channel and removal of sand from the culvert could cost over $60,000, although that figure will be reduced by a contribution from the beachfront property owners.
According to the permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the work must be completed before April 1 to protect spawning and early life stages of winter flounder and shellfish, and nesting of endangered or threatened shorebirds.
At the meeting on Monday, Bill Taylor, a deputy trustee, said, “We have to get that channel open. That channel is the livelihood for a number of fishermen.” Although Suffolk County is scheduled to dredge the harbor in 2018, the fishermen said the need was too urgent to wait until then.
Dredging the channel could cost as much as $40,000, Mr. Bistrian said. The excavation would take five or six days at a cost of $2,000 per day, Mr. Bock said. Identical estimates were provided for both the loading of excavated spoil and its transport. Spreading and grading of the spoil is a two-to-three day project, at $1,550 per day, Mr. Bock said. The ultimate cost to the trustees will be offset by the property owners’ contribution. However, since their properties are beyond a beach-nourishment site authorized by the D.E.C., the private owners will pay Mr. Bistrian directly for that aspect of the project.
Excavation of the culvert is expected to take three to four days and cost as much as $23,000. The trustees intend to compare water-quality measurements taken after the culvert is opened with data gathered last year by Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, who has conducted testing for the trustees for the last several years.
Should the comparison demonstrate that opening the culvert resulted in improved water quality, the trustees suggested, they could advocate for money from East Hampton Town’s community preservation fund to be directed to such projects in the future, given that in November voters approved using up to 20 percent of future community preservation fund proceeds for water quality initiatives.