Town super: Bellport ‘high priority’ for dredging
In a letter to Gilbert Anderson, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, Brookhaven Town supervisor Ed Romaine urged county officials to dredge two locations in Bellport Bay.
The letter, dated June 15, comes ahead of the county’s plans for fall and winter dredging projects. “There’s a narrow window for these projects,” Romaine said in a phone interview last week, referring to the time of year dredging is usually completed. “We’re hoping they will address issues with Bellport Bay.”
Romaine specifically referred to the entrance channel at Ho-Hum Beach on Fire Island as one area in need of remediation, as well as the main channel connecting the Bellport Village Marina to their ocean beach. “Local ferry captains have been complaining about the narrowing width in navigation depth of these channels,” Romaine said. “There’s been some shoaling in the bay. When the dunes disappeared, all that sand ends up in the channels.”
Mark Leuly, who serves as the captain of Bellport’s Whalehouse Point ferry, can attest to those challenges. “During low tide, we’re down to about 5 feet,” he said of the channel’s depth. “The ferry is designed for shallow draft, but there’s still only a few inches,” Leuly said. “You could jump off the boat and be ankle deep in water in the channel.
According to Bellport Village mayor Ray Fell, there’s an urgent need for dredging. “The channel in certain areas is low, and sometimes the ferry has had trouble,” he said, adding that boaters have not faced the same challenges with depth.
Romaine indicated that Bellport was placed on the town’s priority list this year, and may look to dredge in Mt. Sinai in 2019 to coincide with the nearly $10 million project to rebuild a pair of destroyed jetties at the North Shore beach.
Fell said in an interview last week that it would be great timing if the bay could be dredged. “I’m not assuming it will get done tomorrow, but hopefully by next spring. It would fit in nicely with Phase One of our marina project,” he said, “and would continue to improve the waterfront in Bellport.”
Romaine described the project as an improvement to a form of public transportation for village residents. “Little by little, the channel has been filling in,” Leuly explained, noting that sand from the breach may have accelerated that process. “So it’s good [the county] is starting that process. Eventually we’d have to stop service if we couldn’t get through.”
Bellport Village officials discussed the proposal during a village meeting Monday night. While supportive of the project, it was noted that the village would have to pay for testing of the bay bottom to ensure no toxins are found. “Before they dredge, they test, because they need a place to put the spoils,” Fell explained. “It can get expensive.”
Trustee Mike Ferrigno suggested the village meet with the waterfront commission to determine which location is in more dire need of dredging before proceeding. “Maybe we’ll test those 100 yards or so first and get it done,” he said.
County officials did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Like what you have read? Click here to subscribe to the Long Island Advance so you can read more stories like this, and find out everything that’s going on in your town!