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Docking maneuvers: South Ferry sees upgrades in its future

South Ferry will be getting a major upgrade at its docks on the North Haven side of its route.

Cliff Clark, South Ferry’s president, spoke about the plan at the Sept. 1 Town Board work session, and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I – Sag Harbor) made an announcement shortly after that funds have been secured for the extensive work. Money and plans may be in order, but it will be some time before the work begins, with a start date set for the fall of 2021.

State funds are being used because Route 114, which ends at the Shelter Island ferry dock and commences in North Haven, is a state road.

The project plans to improve the docks and raise the state road on the South Fork side, reconstruct the bulkhead, install additional drainage for water runoff and raise the parking areas to meet the new roadway elevation.

Mr. Thiele said the project has significant regional implications. Speaking about improving the state road and access to South Ferry, he said, “This important stretch of roadway serves not just local traffic, but is an interstate link from New England to the South Fork for the many travelers who utilize the Cross-Sound Ferry from New London.

Both North and South ferry companies have been dealing with higher tides than normal, planning measures to deal with climate change that is already affecting the Island.

According to the federal government, sea levels are up nearly a foot since 1900. And the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has projected seas to rise as much as 6.25 feet by the end of the century.

Twice last year, North Ferry had to shut down its boats to deal with docking difficulties because of rising tides. The shutdowns were only for an hour to 90 minutes, said Stella Lagudis, general manager of the Heights Property Owners Corporation, which owns North Ferry.

But concern by the company about higher tides caused its Greenport bulkheading to be replaced; the new bulkheads are about a foot higher than the old ones, Ms. Lagudis said.

In addition, North Ferry officials have solicited permits to allow the company to change its ramps to prepare for higher tides.

Mr. Clark has acknowledged that his boats and docks are less affected than the North Ferry fleet because — at least on the Shelter Island side — Mashomack Preserve’s undeveloped shore helps protect them from storms coming in from the northeast.