Dredging Pullback Rankles at Trustees

Georgica Pond
An excavator from the Bistrian Materials company dug sand from the south end of Georgica Pond during the week under contract with the town trustees. Russell Drumm

    The announcement two weeks ago that the south end of Three Mile Harbor would not be dredged as planned has not gone over well, but a county legislator sees a silver lining.
    Over 80,000 cubic yards of sand were removed from the harbor inlet where shoaling had posed a threat to navigation. The inlet was dredged to a depth of 12 feet. A channel on the harbor’s south end was to be dredged to 7 feet.
    However, Bill Hillman, chief engineer for the county’s Department of Public Works, said that a survey showed there to be not enough shoaling on the harbor’s south end to justify moving the county-contracted dredge there.
    Instead, Mr. Hillman said, his agency planned to work with the town to mark a 75-foot-wide channel with buoys. The original channel at the south end was 150 feet wide. It has not undergone a comprehensive dredging for more than 30 years.
    On Monday, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said that “private structures, docks and moorings, in the county’s historical channel made a thorough dredging impossible. The county made attempts to have the structures moved and failed, so the county said narrow the channel down to 75 feet.” Mr. Schneiderman said the Department of Public Works had determined that it could not dredge around the structures because it would constitute public work on private property.
    “When calculating the amount of material in there they found only 1,700 yards, so when taking a giant dredge there when other inlets are facing a short dredging window, they thought if we realign the channel slightly using buoys, you still get to the 7-foot depth,” he said.
    Before the start of the regular December meeting of the East Hampton Town Trustees Tuesday night, Diane McNally, the trustees’ clerk, said she didn’t buy Mr. Schneiderman’s explanation and bridled at the idea that town officials failed to deliver. “This has been in the works for four years. There should have been a little going on between now and then.”
    “It’s not private property, it’s trustee property,” she said of the bottomland under the docks in question — dredging around the docks would not have been doing public work on private property. She added that in any case, the understanding was that the dredging would be done, not within the dock complex at the Three Mile Harbor Boat Yard, but outside it.
    “Jay Schneiderman was a town supervisor. He should know that. He should have made a call. They are faceless,” she said of the county agency. “They passed the buck and left us to explain to our constituents.”
    “This may not be a terrible thing,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We have a 10-year permit, maybe we can get back next year. If we do go back, we could dredge to 10 feet, not 7, to accommodate sailboats with 7-foot keels. It would help if private docks did not extend 50 feet into our channel. We did not walk away from it. We made multiple attempts. This was a dredge project gone right. It took out 80,000 yards.”
    “This was an over-$2-million project, a large-scale project that rebuilt the Sammy’s Beach peninsula,” he said.
    Meanwhile, the Bistrian Materials company has excavated approximately 6,000 cubic yards of sand from the south end of Georgica Pond to be used to rebuild eroded beaches. Last week, the Bistrian company and the Keith Grimes company agreed to take equal amounts of the 12,000 cubic yards of sand, the amount permitted by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. If possible another 12,000 cubic yards will be excavated after the first of the year and before a Jan. 15 deadline, the start of a dredging ban imposed to accommodate spawning fish.


I think the best option at this point is for the County to come back next year and finish the job, and do it right. Dredging to 10 feet would be a definite plus - sailboats go aground in the southern channel every summer, and it's dangerous, especially at night. They could certainly move the channel so it doesn't interfere with the docks - I don't know how they placed it, but I'm sure it wasn't super precise placement 30 years ago, and moving the channel 50 feet to the north would be a logical approach. Jay Schneiderman and the County should be complemented on the excellent job done to the North channel - no complaints, done well, and leaving a beautiful beach at Sammy's. While I understand the Trustees' frustration, I hope it doesn't cause bad blood that might stop the county from returning next year - let's work to get it done right, and try to get it finished properly next year - 10 feet deep, 150 feet wide, and slightly shifted to the north so it clears the docks !!
Diane's right - how can a project in the works for 4 years all of a sudden get pulled at the last minute, as a total surprise to the Town and to the Trustees? Either somebody made a mistake, or we're not getting the complete story. Jay's usually pretty sharp, but maybe he's getting snowed by the County Engineer ... let's hope the silver lining of getting it done to 10 feet next year isn't just a pipe dream - if Jay can make that happen, he'll get my vote again (just like he's gotten my vote every time he's run for office). And if Diane gets it done by ruffling some feathers, then she's got my vote too (she's a tough, no-nonsense lady who doesn't pull punches).