Enforcement the Issue

Trustees are stymied on beaches and bottomlands

    No matter where they turn, the East Hampton Town Trustees keep saying, regulations that protect the beaches and bottomlands, which they own and manage on behalf of the public, are not being enforced. Violations of beach-driving and shellfishing ordinances and illegal dock construction are on the top their list.
    During a July 24 work session, trustees agreed that Ed Michels, the chief harbormaster, was doing all he could. But, they said, more boots on the ground were needed. They suggested that deputy harbormasters be hired.
    Mr. Michels heads Marine Patrol, a division of the Town Police Department, which employs eight or nine part-time officers. Reached after the meeting, Mr. Michels said, “There is no such thing as deputization. You’re either a part-time police officer or a part-time peace officer.” They pointed out that they receive the same training as other police officers and carry firearms.
    Mr. Michels agreed that part-time officers were in order, but said he did not have an idea where the money to hire them would come from. The East Hampton Town Board controls the Police Department’s budget as well as the trustees’.
     Lynn Mendelman, a trustee, had suggested at the meeting that the trustees ask the town board to increase its mariculture budget to help pay for enforcement. Diane McNally, the group’s presiding officer, endorsed the idea yesterday. The budget line, which is used to assist the town hatchery and to pay baymen to relay oysters from Oyster Pond to other town waters, has remained at about $5,000 for years.
    Another trustee, Nat Miller, said it was not only people “from away” who were violating shellfish regulations, for instance, but locals, who knew where enforcement personnel were not looking.
    The health of Napeague Harbor was also on the agenda at the July 24 session.
    Ms. McNally reported on a recent meeting with other town officials on a study by William Bowman of Land Use Ecological Services, a Medford firm, which had been hired by the Peconic Estuary Program.
    Napeague Harbor has had two navigation channels historically, one on the east side of Hicks Island, the other on the west side, and sometimes both. The east channel has been closed for several years because of shoaling. According to Kim Shaw of the Town Natural Resources Department, what had started as a study of Napeague Harbor’s tidal circulation had become a “dredging feasibility” study because of budgetary constraints.    
    The trustees would like to see the east channel reopened, but Ms. Shaw said yesterday that was unlikely because the county would entertain the dredging of only one navigational channel, and the west channel was now functioning. Because the east channel is no longer navigable, Ms. Shaw said, reopening it would require it to be considered as a new project with ensuing bureaucratic hurdles. She also said that a hydrologist working with the Peconic Estuary Program as a consultant had said Napeague Harbor could not support two channels.
    The trustees did not seem deterred. In the interest of keeping the east side of the harbor flushed by tidal currents, they discussed the possibility of maintaining it with a culvert such as they have under Gerard Drive in Springs, which opens the north end of Accabonac Harbor to Gardiner’ Bay.