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Town partners with South Ferry Hills Homeowners Association

COURTESY PHOTO |  Merkel Basin, just northwest of Smith Cove needs dredging.
COURTESY PHOTO | Merkel Basin, just northwest of Smith Cove needs dredging.

The deal is, we’ll build it and you dredge it.

That was South Ferry Hills Homeowner’s Association President David Lichtenstein’s offer to the Town Board at its Tuesday work session.

Mr. Lichtenstein said the association’s members have pitched in to fund new bulkheads around Merkel Creek, a cost that some have estimated to be $200,000.

What the association wants from the town is to do an initial dredge for an estimated cost  of about $5,000 and then accept responsibility for future maintenance dredging of the canal leading to the basin. The town would also reap the spoils of clear sand.

The Waterways Management Advisory Council has already said the idea is sound and the Town Board agreed Tuesday. Councilman Ed Brown complimented Mr. Lichtenstein and his organization, noting “your efforts have been tremendous.”

The dredging could begin this winter.

Councilman Peter Reich noted that extensive dredging will begin at South Ferry soon, and cautioned boaters to beware of pipes already in the water, especially entering West Neck Harbor.

The board picked up the issue of raising fines for illegal construction into protected wetlands, since all members have agreed that a cap of $5,000 is too low. The board has looked into what penalties other East End towns have on their books for wetland infractions, and there were some surprises.

East Hampton’s code was vague, Southampton had a cap of $3,000 and Southold had a maximum of $4,000 for environmental infractions.

“We’ve led before,” Mr. Reich said about fines here, compared to other towns. “”We can lead again.”

Councilman Ed Brown, who has led the charge to raise the fines here, said he would have no problem of putting a$50,000 cap on penalties.

After further discussion, with Councilman Paul Shepherd posing the question of whether the town was looking for “vengeance or justice,” the board was in agreement that fines should be capped at $25,000. The matter will be voted on at the next regular meeting of the board.

Mr. Brown said, with a smile, that he was happy he had started at $50,000, and Supervisor Jim Dougherty complimented his colleague for being a skilled poker player.

Mr. Brown referenced a recent Newsday article reporting that Jennifer Garvey, formerly chief of staff to Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, will lead a waste water “think tank” at Stony Brook University.

The launch has been funded by a $3 million state grant and it’s the beginning of Suffolk County becoming the “Silicon Valley of waste water infrastructure,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

This is another sign that the issue of water quality is beginning to take on a regional dimension, which Mr. Brown, along with his colleagues, have been advocating.