2006-01-19 / Front Page

Use of wooden pier at East Ferry not clear

By Sam Bari

Presiding over his first Harbor Management Commission meeting as chairman, Mike deAngeli moved the discussion of the townowned wooden pier at East Ferry to the front of the Jan. 11 agenda.

DeAngeli began by saying that Town Solicitor Lauriston Parks was asked to attend the meeting to clarify his written responses from an Oct. 24, 2005 letter answering questions submitted to him earlier that month by the commission. At its December meeting, the commission discussed how the wooden pier should be divided between commercial and non-commercial use, DeAngeli noted.

Parks told the commission that when federal money was obtained the proposed plan for the wooden pier, according to the documents, was to demolish the existing pier and replace it with a new one that was 150 feet long and 10 feet wide. This would provide a place to fish and for docking of transient pleasure craft, he said.

Parks referred to the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Outdoor Recreational Manual of July 21, 1977, which says, “Changes in Recreational Uses. The use of property acquired or developed with assistance from the Fund may not be changed from that contemplated and approved when assistance was obtained, unless prior approval is obtained from the Director.”

Parks then said that only two outdoor recreational uses are permitted on the 167-foot pier, fishing and tying up of recreational pleasure boats. He said that he felt the situation on the wooden pier today is okay with the exception of the docking of the Beavertail, which, in his opinion, is not a recreational vessel but a research vessel. If the commission wanted the pier to be used for something other than outdoor recreation — for example commercial fishing — then the state would require the town to find another location within the town that could be permitted for the same use that would be taken away at the townowned wooden pier.

Commission Vice-Chairman David Laurie asked if it was possible to reimburse the federal government for its expenses on the wooden pier, releasing the town from any state imposed restrictions. The process would be complicated since the state intended the permitted use for perpetuity, Parks replied. The town would have to find a comparable space for the existing permitted use. Commissioner Greg Murphy, a commercial fisherman, suggested that pursuing the matter of relieving the town of its obligation to the state government would be worthwhile.

Commissioner Richard Anderson asked Parks if he felt the current docking situation at the pier put the town in compliance. He was not comfortable calling boats for hire docking at the pier recreational vessels, Parks said. Anderson said that the Town Council has adopted a resolution that does not allow fishing on the wooden pier but does allow fishing on the floating pier.

Chairman deAngeli asked Parks if he would supplement his Oct. 10, 2005 letter and provide copies of the documents that were discussed. The information would be referred to the Facilities Committee for further study and discussion.

Parks then noted that Conanicut Marina, which leases the pier from the town, is required to adhere to all of the restrictions and conditions that have been put on the wooden pier by the Department of the Interior and its regulations concerning the floating dock, as well as the regulations from the state of Rhode Island for the use of the grant money. He went on to say that the additional 140 feet of the wooden pier has no restrictions.

The next item moved up on the agenda addressed the Patrick Kilroy Dock Plans. David Kilroy, Patrick’s father, represented his son in his request to build a small pier off his waterfront property on Walcott Avenue. The property was previously the site of the old Conanicut Yacht Club, which had a pier when it was operating. Kilroy noted that town moorings may be in the way of construction.

He said that he was willing to work with the mooring owners and the harbormaster to relocate the moorings at his expense. He is in the process of submitting the required paperwork to the state Coastal Resources Management Council to proceed with his request.

DeAngeli expressed concern that moving moorings may affect those on the waiting list. Upon submission of Kilroy’s permit application, the CRMC would send a copy of his request to the commission for its review. Until then, the commission could not comment.

In other business Police Chief Thomas Tighe, the harbor commission administrator, recommended accepting the RT Group of East Providence as engineers and consultants to assist Town Engineer Mike Gray in the steel pier project at East Ferry. The commission voted unanimously to award the bid. Tighe also noted that over $314,000 retained earnings are in the Harbor Management Fund, although most of the funds have been previously committed.

Harbor Clerk Paula Swistak reported that she sent out 268 waiting list renewal forms to people who want to continue to wait for a mooring.

Town Council liaison Julio DiGiando reported that by its next meeting the Town Council will have appointed a new member to the commission to bring the panel to seven members.

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