Reel Point cleared for emergency dredging permit

JULIE LANE PHOTO | It was a windy, foggy morning at Reel Point Thursday when town and county workers began to dredge the tip that juts out into Coecles Harbor. The current permit lasts only five days, with a couple of days tacked on to move the spoils to to shore up the center.

Anyone looking out at Reel Point this morning may have been surprised to see dredging equipment already at work to improve navigation at the mouth of Coecles Harbor. Plans had originally called for work to begin at an undetermined future date.

But thanks to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, an emergency dredging permit is in place that allows movement of spoils from the end of Reel Point. The spoils will be placed farther in  on the spate of land that shoots into Coecles Harbor and has been seriously eroded.

The emergency dredging permit is good for five days and there will be another couple of days involved in moving the spoils to where they’re most needed, according to Shelter Island Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. His department workers are cooperating with county personnel on the current job.

Mr. Card estimated that about 10,000 cubic yards of spoil would be dredged now. Then in October, equipment will be returned to the area for a major dredging that will remove 100,000 cubic yards of material, improving the opening of the channel.

The immediate dredging will help to improve navigation for boaters going in and out of Coecles Harbor, Mr. Card said. But with the movement of the  tidal current, it’s important that the full dredging job and reinforcement of land toward the center be done in October, Mr. Card said.

Waterways Management Advisory Council member Marc Wein was the first person in recent months to focus on the erosion at Reel Point, but it took further erosion from Superstorm Sandy to win over others and pressure the DEC to get the job moving.

In May, it became evident that the calls from Shelter Island had been heard and help would be on the way. But no one on the WMAC could estimate when that help would arrive. WMAC member Alfred Loreto told his colleagues in May he thought a letter from Supervisor Jim Dougherty to the DEC had been helpful in getting attention for the dredging.

If the work being done at Reel Point today is any indication, heavier stones from the end are being moved to shore up the middle area, as Mr. Wein had requested. He told his colleagues earlier he didn’t want to see fine sand dumped in the center since it would just wash out with tides, threatening to make Reel Point a tombolo — an area accessible by land only at low tide.

That’s exactly the case at Taylor’s Island that can be accessed on foot only at low tide. At other times, it must be accessed by boat.