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Greenport marinas offer to pay for Stirling Basin dredge

The company that owns two of the largest marinas in Greenport Village has agreed to pay the cost of dredging the entrance to Stirling Basin, which hasn’t been done in many years.

Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told the village in November that it should hire a private contractor to do the work rather than wait for the Corps or Suffolk County to do so, according to Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. 

He said the Corps told him it was not a big enough job for them to do, and it wouldn’t have been one of their top priorities.

“It’s such a small project that it would take forever to try and get the federal money,” Mr. Hubbard said at the time. “They are looking at all 50 states … New York Harbor is going to get dredged before they think about this.”

The village still needed to find money to do the job.

Enter Safe Harbor, the company that owns Greenport Yacht Yard and Stirling Harbor Marina in Greenport.

“It became obvious that the political will didn’t exist to get it to happen,” said Sean Gilligan, the general manager of both marinas, in an interview.

“As the company with the most to lose in Stirling Basin, it seemed like the right thing to do.”

The two marinas combined have around 400 slips, and overall, Stirling Basin houses about 586 boats, both recreational and commercial, he said. Some of those boats measure up to 80 feet long.

Mr. Gilligan said the two marinas have a customer advisory council that meets four times a year.

“Toward the end of the boating season last year, it became a problem for a lot of folks with the bigger boats,” he said. “They were having trouble navigating through the harbor entrance.”

He said when he started working in Greenport eight years ago, the passageway, near the marine monument, “could be navigated by two boats, one coming in and one going out. It had gotten to the point that by the end of the season in September, only one boat could come in through the entrance.”

And from September to January there were three heavy storms that contributed to a 30 percent loss in space at the harbor’s opening, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation numbers, Mr. Gilligan said.

Safe Harbor will contract with a private company to do the job, and Greenport Village will work on obtaining the necessary permits needed for the project, according to village administrator Paul Pallas.

Mr. Gilligan declined to say how much they expect the job to cost, but he said it’s a small job that involves less than 1,000 yards of sand and is expected to be done in less than a week.

There is debate over when the entrance to the basin was last dredged, but all estimates say it was at least 25 years ago.

The dredge spoil will be placed on Sandy Beach Point above the high tide line and used as beach renourishment, Mr. Gilligan said.

The work must be done by May due to wildlife restrictions, he said.

The dredging project was discussed briefly at Thursday’s Greenport Village board meeting.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see the plan of Safe Harbor to fund the dredging of the entrance to Stirling Creek,” said Arthur Tasker, who owns a home in the nearby Sandy Beach area.

Having the job done by a private contractor means it doesn’t have to wait for inclusion on Suffolk County’s busy dredging schedule, he said.

Mr. Tasker did have concerns about where the dredge spoil would go.

Referring to the last two times the entrance to the basin was dredged, he recalled both as being “environmental disasters” due to the placement of the dredge spoil in those instances.

Mr. Gilligan said the dredging they plan to do will be monitored by the state DEC.

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