Russell says Southold could sue Army Corps of Engineers over failure to dredge

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell says town could sue Army Corps of Engineers over failure to dredge Mattituck Inlet.

Supervisor Scott Russell is considering suing the Army Corps of Engineers over its failure to dredge Mattituck Inlet this winter.

The Army Corps’ 2011 budget was slashed by $500 million last year, including $3.2 million for a long-awaited dredging of Mattituck Inlet, the only navigable Long Island Sound inlet on the North Fork.

Congressman Tim Bishop took heat on the decision from some Mattituck residents at a forum with seniors last week at the town’s Human Resource Center in Mattituck, after he pushed for an emergency dredging of Montauk Harbor instead of Mattituck.

Mr. Bishop said Montauk took priority because it is the largest commercial fishing port in New York State and is also home to a Coast Guard station.

Mr. Russell said in an email this week that he’s placing a potential lawsuit over the failure to dredge Mattituck Inlet on the table for discussion at the Town Board’s next work session March 13.

“I have come to believe that the only way the issue will be addressed is through litigation,” he said. “The Mattituck Inlet is a federally designated ‘safe harbor’ and the inlet is heavily relied on by commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.”

The Sound entrance is not navigable, the supervisor added.

“While I regret having to pursue legal action, it is clear that the needs of that inlet will languish without assertive action on the town’s part,” he said. “I also believe that the very basis of our action can be the Army Corps of Engineers’ own study.”

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