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05/08/14 8:00am
REPORTER FILE PHOTO The first video recorded session of a Shelter Island Town Board occurred on May 7, 2004.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO
The first video recorded session of a Shelter Island Town Board occurred on May 7, 2004.

50 YEARS AGO
Clouded title delays Heights Post Office

It was in May 1964 when construction on a new Heights Post Office was suddenly halted. Seems the owner of the land being leased for the building found that a deed change that had occurred 30 years earlier was being questioned by a bank involved in the mortgage. (more…)

03/06/12 10:00am

COURTESY SOUTH FERRY CO. | Aerial view shows locations of two planned dredging sites near Shelter Island and North Haven ferry sliips.

After years of worry that disaster could strike before critically needed dredging could take place, South Ferry is finally on the verge of salvation.

Its landings on Shelter Island and North Haven have moved to second place on the list of sites to be dredged by Suffolk County next fall. Steps have already been taken to plan the project and determine where the spoils would be deposited to shore up eroded beaches.

“We are absolutely thrilled with how this is moving forward now,” South Ferry owner Cliff Clark said. For the past eight to 10 years, he has worried that “a perfect storm of winds and tides and other circumstances” would result in an inability to pull boats into slips on either side of the channel because of shoaling.

All along, he has insisted the job should be a county project, not a private job for his company to fund, because the ferry is an essential link in the state highway, Route 114.

That Supervisor Jim Dougherty, South Fork Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and County Legislator Ed Romaine championed the project made all the difference in getting the county and state to focus on its importance, Mr. Clark said.

To his knowledge, the areas on both sides of the channel have never been hydraulically dredged by the county. He speculated that, after the job is done, probably in October, it won’t have to be done again in his lifetime.

“This is a big deal for us,” Mr. Clark said, explaining that the company has been family-owned since the 1700s. He and his brother have a “mandate to hand it over better than we got it” to the next generation.

Mr. Clark said this week he was optimistic that money will be found for the $1.5 million project, which will remove 50,000 cubic yards of sand that has built up near the ferry slips and deliver it to eroded beaches in four areas — two on the south side of Shelter Island and two on the north side of North Haven. Given the mild winter, he suspects county money designated for snow removal might be available for dredging.

Without dredging, the highway would be “closed” if the boats couldn’t dock, Mr. Clark told state and county officials. The state would act if snow or sand from flooding closed a highway. The fact that the spoils are coming from below instead of above the water shouldn’t change the need for public action.

The problem isn’t going to present itself this year or even next, Mr. Clark said. But if the shoaling is ignored too long, there will come a time “in an extreme situation” of winds and tides “where we wouldn’t be able to get into North Haven.” The same could happen on the Shelter Island side.

He has a 10-year maintenance dredging permit that allows South Ferry to use a small crane to remove some sand from the ferry slips from time to time. But the shoaling is now getting bad enough that small equipment can’t deal with it, he said.

Earlier this month, Mr. Clark met on site with a group of county and state engineers and Department of Environmental Conservation officials, County Legislator Ed Romaine, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. as well as neighbors on whose waterfront  the spoils might be deposited. They got a first-hand look at the close clearances that already exist near the slips in low tide. Mr. Clark said he has gone house to house on both sides of the channel to elicit support for the project.