2009-03-26 / News

Harbor panel moves forward on Ft. Getty, East Ferry projects

By Erin Tiernan

The Harbor Management Commission discussed the proposed dredging at Ft. Getty at its March 11 meeting and reviewed progress on the projects at East Ferry.

After addressing concerns with Conservation Committee Chair Chris Powell, the HMC requested that Town Engineer Michael Gray and Town Administrator Bruce Kaiser meet with the Coastal Resources Management Council for an advisory opinion on how to move forward with the proposed dredging and improvement plans to the boat ramp at Ft. Getty.

Powell said he was opposed to any dredging at Ft. Getty, which is classified as Type 1 waters by the CRMC. Type 1 waters are considered conservation zones to preserve the area's wildlife and its scenic and habitat value, he said.

As an existing facility, the boat ramp is grandfathered at Ft. Getty, Powell said. Maintenance or improvement dredging would require a special exception and a different permit process because these are prohibited uses of Type 1 waters.

Powell said the Conservation Committee is primarily concerned with the boat ramp's proximity to Fox Hill Salt Marsh. Increased boating traffic could impact ecosystems in the wetlands, especially since those shallow waters have nursery value as a habitat for juvenile fish. He said disposal of the dredged sediment is another issue because wherever it is dumped, it will destroy a second habitat.

"Anything lost in habitat is also a potential loss to the fishing community," Powell said. The fishing community was already enduring hardship, he added.

HMC Chair Michael deAngeli said the harbor commission's charge is to increase and maintain access to the water, which also benefits fishermen.

Town Council President Julio DiGiando, who is the HMC liason, agreed that there was a need to improve access.

Depending upon the extent of the dredging, the CRMC may require some mitigation in return for the habitat loss, such as planting eel grass, according to Powell. "Mitigation can be quite expensive, and that's something to consider if you plan on pursuing this," he said.

Powell suggested the HMC meet with CRMC to explain their plans in a preliminary determination process where they would meet with a biologist, engineer, and policy and dredge coordinator for an advisory opinion on how to move forward with the Ft. Getty plans. He said this would save the commission money and give them an idea of what CRMC might allow.

Commissioner Wendy Waller said the meeting would be benefi- cial to their goal as it would provide a paper trail and show their efforts to compromise with CRMC regulations. "No one brought up the fact that this is Type 1 water (earlier) and an entirely different permitting process," Waller said. "It doesn't mean we can't overcome it, but there are specific hurdles and it is more expensive."

The Conservation Commission would like to see all reasonable alternatives exhausted, Powell said. He cited a plan for a deep water ramp at Ft. Wetherill proposed by the Department of Environmental Management several years ago as an example.

Harbor vice chairman Andrew Kallfelz said that Ft. Wetherill was on the other side of the island and would therefore serve a different purpose.

Gray suggested putting the burden on the town council to see if they want to spend the money to pursue the Ft. Getty project. He said they should consider the FAST sailing school and that they will need a ramp in order to access the waters in Ft. Getty where they plan to construct the facility.

In other HMC business, Gray gave an update on the progress of the curbs and rails project for improvement of the cement pier at East Ferry Marina. Gray said the weather was a major deterrent and said it didn't appear they would meet their March 15 deadline.

He said they began construction of the southwest corner and hoped for good weather to get through the next week.

The HMC also decided to move forward with plans for the wood pile pier repairs and addition of a touch-and-go dock at East Ferry.

After reviewing several alternate plans, the commission unanimously passed a motion to have Gray focus on a design alternative that angled docks and allowed for a 45-foot fairway width, with boats tied to the docks. Commissioners were concerned with costs of construction and yearly maintenance repairs.

"Maintenance costs will be high," said Bill Munger, owner of Conanicut Marine Services. He estimated $5,000 a year to take the touch-and-go dock in and out and said there would be yearly maintenance costs as well. He advised the commission to use 40- foot floats instead of 20-foot ones and recommended installing pipe piles instead of timber piles.

Harbor Clerk Kim Devlin reported the waitlist for mooring permits is closed for the year.

She mentioned that private mooring inspection reports for the mooring location database were still being submitted by private marinas in minutes, degrees, and seconds.

Kallfelz said it was that private sectors record data in decimal degrees to avoid transcription errors and enter correct locations in the database.

Commissioner Susan Little reported that the traffic committee met on Feb. 19. She said the committee voted to prohibit parking on both sides of Avenue B and West Wood Road. The traffi c committee also passed a motion to put a weight limit on Carr Lane to prohibit any vehicle over 30,000 pounds with the exception of town vehicles, emergency vehicles and any delivery trucks for residents. There was a request to make Green Lane a one way to Union Street, on which the committee did not vote.

Commissioner Chris Brown presented a preliminary budget for next fiscal year 2009/2010. He increased the engineering budget to $20,000 because he said this year's allowance was overspent and because of the two major projects at Ft. Getty and East Ferry proposed for next year's docket. He also wanted to juggle a few line items to fill a contingency fund in the area of $8,000 to $10,000.

Brown will take $2,000 from the allotment for legal fees, and $2,500 from both the mooring database maintenance and the website/ Arcview line items to add to the contingency fund, along with the $1,329.81 discrepancy between operating revenue and operating cost. Brown said he will rewrite the budget for approval at next month's meeting.

Commissioners reviewed a draft of the annual report and made several clarification revisions regarding wording.

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