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WMAC wants county to delay Reel Point dredge

Reel Point

When the town has wanted Suffolk County to intervene at sites where dredging is needed, it has sometimes taken years to get on the list. But county plans for excavation this month at Reel Point are likely to be stopped by town action while a study on the best way to preserve the site is completed.

Waterways Management Advisory Council (WMAC) members agreed Monday night there’s a need to speak with an engineering firm conducting a $42,500 study of Reel Point on behalf of the town and Peconic Land Trust, both of which own parts of Reel Point and are sharing the costs of the study.

Conclusions of that study are expected to be issued by the end of this year. But WMAC members are concerned any excavation that takes place this month could have a negative effect on future plans

In 2014, a major dredging took place to open up the mouth of Coecles Harbor at the end of Reel Point with spoils placed to shore up eroded parts of the site. But just two years later, what exists is a shelf at the end of Reel Point that had to be posted with signs warning boaters to stay away or risk being grounded.

Before spending more money on dredging, the town and Peconic Land Trust agreed an engineering study is the best way to determine how best to save the site.

Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. and Town Engineer John Cronin have agreed that if there is to be work at the end of Reel Point, it should be done with a “long reach” machine that would go deeper than the typical dredging equipment to avoid creating another shelf that would interfere with navigation.

WMAC Chairman John Needham said he would speak with the two men and engineers conducting the present study to see what can be done to delay the present county plans.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has informed the WMAC that if there is to be shellfishing in Dering Harbor, a plan to test water for safety has to be developed.  The DEC also said the Heights Property Owners Corporation has to be involved so its sewer system is checked to ensure there are no problems with discharges that could affect water quality.

Councilman Paul Shepherd, liaison to the WMAC, said he would speak with Peter Vielbig, who in the past, has volunteered to take water samples and provide them to the DEC for testing.

A request for a broad plan to protect eelgrass — a long plant that provides a habitat for flounders, bay scallops and clams — in specific areas from local officials, has turned into a more time-consuming effort to designate specific areas for protection and a plan to manage those areas.

Councilman Jim Colligan, another Town Board WMAC liaison who has been the point person on the issue, told WMAC members that once the board completes its meetings on the 2017 budget and work on developing a short-term housing law, he’ll turn his attention back to the eelgrass study and work on expanding it.

In other business, the WMAC agreed by a 5-0 vote to recommend that the Town Board approve a mooring application in Coecles Harbor for James Theinert.