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Dredging Project Stuck In The Mud As Channel Tightens At Three Mile Harbor

Originally Posted: August 25, 2008

Aaron Boyd

  |   2 Comments · Print Article

The main channel through the harbor is dangerously shallow. The winter season could potentially make matters worse, as the shoals are shifted by aggressive storms. Photos by Eileen Casey

East Hampton - Safe passage into Three Mile Harbor continues to worsen as confusion over the pending Suffolk County application has been stuck "in irons" awaiting state approval. East Hampton Town officials and local marina managers are under the impression that the harbor is not a county priority this year, meanwhile, the town's Natural Resources Department claims the delay occurred with the filing agency.

The channel, the main conveyance in and out of the harbor, runs as shallow as 10 feet at high tide and six feet at low tide along certain sections according to East Hampton Point Marina Manager Kayla Talmage who is also an elected East Hampton Town Trustee. The proper depth should be closer to 13 feet at low tide, Talmage explained.

An aerial view of Three Mile Harbor depicts the shallow shoals of the
channel. Image courtesy of Google Earth

The Suffolk County Dredge Project Committee, a division of County Public Works, compiles and assesses regional dredging proposals and decides which projects will be given county approval before they are submitted to state agencies.

Suffolk County Department of Public Works, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Army Corps of Engineers are analyzing East Hampton's request for dredging in Three Mile Harbor. Members of the East Hampton Town Board voiced concerns that the dredging may not take place this year causing further safe passage issues. Councilman Brad Loewen reported that Three Mile Harbor was originally on the priority list, however, he asserts the town's agencies failed to submit the proper permits in the final approval process, forcing the County to suspend the Three Mile Harbor project until 2010.

East Hampton's Natural Resources Director Larry Penny, recently vetted over questionable management capabilities by the town board at a July 17 public hearing, was the town employee in charge of applying for the permits, according to Loewen.

Penny maintains the job was in fact, "farmed out" by Suffolk County to a third party, Energy and Environmental Analysis (EEA), a firm which writes applications and permits as environmental consultants. A spokesperson for EEA confirmed that the County Department of Public Works is a client, however they refused to comment on the nature of the work they do for the County.

Vessels traveling through the harbor channel have had difficulty navigating the shallow depths.

That confusion aside, according to County Public Works Commissioner Gilbert Anderson, the compilation of permits for the Three Mile Harbor dredging is progressing on schedule. "We're in the process of completing the permit application," Anderson asserted, whereupon the applications will be vetted by the DEC and the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency in charge of the actual dredging work.

"The priority list I have in front of me doesn't have East Hampton anywhere on it," Loewen asserted in an Aug. 21 telephone interview. Loewen vowed to sort through the confusion by early this week, enlisting the aid of Bill Taylor, an employee of Natural Resources.

The inlet and certain areas within the harbor have been in need of dredging for the last five years. East Hampton Harbormaster Ed Michels confirmed that the channel would need to be dredged this year to prevent ships from running aground. "We don't want to be stuck in the mud," he explained. The Town Board and Town Trustees considered funding the dredging work, at a cost of approximately $600,000, in March of this year. However, East Hampton's stifling budget deficit has forced the town to rely on Suffolk County and the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Everything was submitted on time," Anderson assured. Dredging will take place county wide between the months of October and January. So long as there are no problems during the application process, Anderson expects Three Mile Harbor will be dredged this year "on schedule."

The severity of the situation will depend on the winter weather. "If we have storms coming from the northeast everything will get blown around," Talmage asserted. The stormy summer season has not been a cheerful horoscope of things to come.

Town officials are worried that Three Mile Harbor may not be dredged this year; according to the Suffolk County Department of Public Works the application process is proceeding on schedule.

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Guest (3 Mile Sailor) from East Hampton, NY says::
This is truly sad. Every sailing season, we were hopeful the dredging would take place. We sold our boat this year partly because of this situation. We couldn't risk the potential costly damage to our sailboat. I'm sure many other sailboat owners feel the same way. It's a shame.
Aug 27, 2008 7:51 pm

Guest (Citizen) from North Sea says::
While its not nice to bottom out in an inlet, the dredging really needs to be done in the spring after the winter storms. Dredging in the fall will just fill in again. Just ask any bayman. You need it but do it in late april so you can get the most out of it!! We need dredging again in North Sea and more importantly we shouldnt have to ask, it should be scheduled as a maintenance item!!!
Aug 26, 2008 12:00 am


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