Greenport pols want dredging of Sterling Harbor made a priority

Greenport Mayor David Nyce wants the federal government to move rapidly on the dredging of Stirling Harbor or get out of the way and let the village arrange its own dredging. That was his message at a Monday morning press conference at Sandy Beach, the site of the village’s monument honoring those who have lost their lives at sea.

“The small and mighty Village of Greenport will do it for them,” Mr. Nyce said, indicating he has an offer on the table by an undisclosed source to tackle the job if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can’t move on the project this year.

“Please get out of the way and let us do it,” the mayor said.

The last notice village officials got about the dredging was that there isn’t enough commercial use of Stirling Harbor to merit moving the project forward until at least the winter of 2013.

“That made me mad,” Mr. Nyce said. Stirling Harbor may be small potatoes to the federal government, but it’s vital to the village, he said. Everyone is waiting six or seven years for dredging, Mr. Nyce said.

“We don’t have time to wait,” he said.

In an email to village residents, Trustee Mary Bess Phillips noted that there are several significant commercial operations in Stirling Harbor besides the Greenport Seafood Dock she and her husband Capt. Mark Phillips own. Others are Stirling Harbor Marina, Brewer’s Yacht Yard, Hanff’s Shipyard, Costello Marine, Townsend Manor Marina, Wooden Boat Builders and Kearnsport.

The undeveloped 123 Sterling Street Corp. site, once zoned solely for waterfront commercial operations, could eventually see another business dependent on an accessible harbor. It is currently for sale.

Stirling Harbor may not be a priority for the feds, Mr. Nyce said. But it’s significant to the life’s blood of the local community, he said. He was joined in his call for action by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine and Southold Town Trustee David Bergen.

It was Mr. Bergen who, early in Mr. Nyce’s first term, called for action on the village’s behalf. He’s in possession of a hydrographic survey by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showing how difficult it is for vessels to get in and out of the harbor because of a lack of dredging. He said Suffolk County has equipment to dredge only about five sites of 15 to 20 the trustees recommended in Southold this year.

Both he and Sen. LaValle noted that Eastern Long Island Hospital’s emergency dock in Stirling Harbor is affected by the lack of dredging in Stirling Harbor.

“This is a federal channel and the feds need to take responsibility for getting it dredged,” Mr. Bergen said.

It’s an annual problem for many creeks and harbors in Suffolk County, Mr. LaValle said, calling on the federal government and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to develop a maintenance plan.

“Our waterways are also our highways,” Mr. Romaine said. No one would tolerate a roadway being shut down for years, but a lack of maintenance to Suffolk County harbors is impeding navigation, he said. Maintenance dredging would prevent projects becoming major undertakings, he said.

“People should not have to come with hats in hand begging for relief,” Mr. LaValle said.

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