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Dredging Progress Despite Bureaucratic Snarls

It appears that about 15 projects will be able to be completed in the approaching dredging season – Oct. 1 to Jan. 15 – but not the 20 to 25 the county used to do annually.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended in April that the county submit one application for all the projects around Peconic Bay rather than individual ones as in the past.

The Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife rejecting its suggestion, but Fish and Wildlife’s regional office never forwarded the letter to the local office that was dealing with the permit applications. That was not known until a conference call last Tuesday, said Bill Hillman, chief engineer for the Suffolk Department of Public Works.

The Corps now hopes to begin issuing permits by the end of this month. That should allow 15 projects – selected on a basis of need and proximity to other projects – to go forward this fall and winter.These projects were provided to SoutholdVOICE readers by Southold Trustee David Bergen. See his post on these pages for the background on how they were selected.

“We have a narrow window and a ticking clock,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), whose staff has been coordinating conference calls among the parties. “I am disappointed that this process has been stalled for months and that agencies have not been communicating with one another.”

Hillman said that after last year’s problems and objections by federal officials to this year’s applications, the county spent $110,000 in the spring to hire a consultant. The consultant prepared new applications for the 15 projects the county expects to be completed in the shorter time frame, Oct. 1 to Jan. 15.

Steve Papa, senior endangered species biologist with the Long Island office of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said, “We believe [the global application is] a way to more effectively manage that number of projects because they’re so similar.”

Thomas Cramer, chief of the corps’ Operations Division for the New York District office, said grouping the applications as suggested by Fish and Wildlife was not necessary because his staff considered the separate applications at the same time anyway. Despite the continuing problems, Levy said the county is “a lot better off than we were a few months ago because the corps is sounding more flexible” and helping to resolve issues such as how the applications should be handled with other agencies.

To be dredged this season

North Sea Harbor, Southampton

Cedar Beach, Southold

Little Creek, Southold

Fresh Pond, Southampton

Miamogue Lagoon, Riverhead

Brushes Creek, Southold

Deep Hole Creek, Southold

Noyac Creek, Southampton

Sebonac Creek, Southampton

Richmond Creek, Southold

Corey Creek, Southold

Jockey Spur, Southold

School House Creek, Southold

Silver Beach Lagoon, Shelter Island

Far Pond, Southampton

Source: Suffolk County Department of Public Works

Five planned dredging projects in Suffolk County that likely will be postponed until next season. The county says it normally does about 25 projects a year; but the year expects to get to only the top 15 or so during the season from Oct. 1 to Jan. 15.

Likely to be dredged next season.

1. Middle Pond, Southampton

2. JamesCreek, Southold

3. Hard Estate (LI Maritime Museum), Islip

4. Abets Creek, Brookhaven

5. Goose Creek, Southold

This year’s delay is particularly frustrating, County Executive Steve Levy said, because it follows problems Suffolk experienced last year when it was caught off-guard by a shorter dredging period and more restrictive permit procedures, both designed to protect endangered species. After Suffolk was able to complete only 10 of 23 planned projects, county and federal officials promised to talk more frequently to smooth out the process.

Un-dredged waterways cause a range of problems for the residents who live near them. People who have boats along the creeks often cannot get out of the creeks at low tide because of the silt. Even for homeowners who don’t have boats, un-cleared waterways can breed mosquitoes, and odors also can arise from accumulated seaweed and mud.

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