2009-04-16 / Front Page

Harbor panel delays dredging

By Erin Tiernan

The Harbor Management Commission last week decided to postpone discussions regarding dredging at Ft. Getty until next month's meeting when a geologist is available.

The HMC's Ft. Getty master plan for repairs and additional construction to the boat ramp at Ft. Getty has been met with considerable opposition from the Audubon Society and town's Conservation Commission.

Town Engineer Michael Gray said the Coastal Resources Management Commission is unlikely to approve anything more than a maintenance project for the existing boat ramp since Ft. Getty is surrounded by Type 1 waters which is classified as a conservation zone.

Gray is worried about silting that will result from dredging in the proposed area. He said the geologist will provide insight into the frequency of dredging that would be required for long term maintenance and operation of the proposed boat ramp.

Projects impacting the environment always meet opposition, said Gray, but he told commissioners the project would most likely be approved by CRMC in some form. "You want to follow up with Boothroyd," said Gray. "Because if dredging isn't feasible you're not going to want to spend the money on things like sediment samples to get prepared for dredging."

Moving forward with another marine development project, the HMC decided to adopt a finalized plan for the fixed timber pier project at East Ferry. Construction, permitting and design costs are estimated at $340,000. Commissioners decided to send the plan to the Town Council for approval and to ask for permission to move forward with the permitting process.

Commissioner Richard Anderson suggested holding off on the fixed timber pier and Ft. Getty projects to see if stimulus package money was available.

"We're providing improved access to the pump out which is an enhancement to the water quality of the bay and makes it more attractive for tourism," said Anderson. "You can make an argument that it would have a positive impact on the downtown economy and I think the same logic can be applied to the Ft. Getty boat ramp repairs. It seems like an absolute perfect fit for stimulus funding."

Commissioner Bob Bowen said projects had to be permitted and "ready to break ground" to be eligible for stimulus funds. He said it was probably too late to seek stimulus money, but suggested moving forward with the permitting processes. He also recommended continuing to seek alternative funding options in anticipation of more stimulus money becoming available.

Commissioners unanimously decided to provide funding to Gray for construction of a new 8-foot by 40- foot float at the east end of the fixed timber pier at East Ferry. Gray estimated the cost at $5,000 and said the existing float has deteriorated and should be replaced before Memorial Day. The HMC also voted for Conanicut Marine Services to handle repairs on the connecting ramp.

Commissioners discussed the need to replace the West Ferry pump out facility, which processes boats' waste products. They approved sending a letter to the Water and Sewer Commission to have the item added to the agenda at its next meeting.

Commissioners also want to have an electric conduit installed when the vacuum line for the pump out is replaced so they can run power underground once funding becomes available.

Twenty percent of all mooring permits have been renewed for next season, reported Kim Devlin, harbor clerk. She said all mooring applications are due by May 15.

Harbormaster Sam Paterson explained that HMC regulations require all inspections to be completed before moorings are installed and boats are launched or they risk a penalty.

Chairman Michael DeAngeli said someone had tried to sell a mooring on craigslist.org and asked Executive Director Chief Thomas Tighe what measures had been taken to stop the auction of HMC's moorings via the internet.

"All I can say is that it is under criminal investigation," said Tighe.

Town Council liaison Julio Di- Giando reported the council submitted a grant application to the federal government for participation in a shellfish nursery operation at Ft. Wetherill in partnership with URI and Roger Williams University. He said $1.3 million is available through the federal grant.

He said the council is not committing to any specific program at this time.

Since the location is protected and has proximity to salt water, $1.2 million of oyster spat and $600,000 of clam spat would be grown at Ft. Wetherill by a nonprofit organization to a point where they could be transplanted to restoration areas in order to enhance the fisheries of the bay.

Return to top