2012-11-22 / Front Page

Panel assesses waterfront damage caused by Sandy

Hurricane complicates ongoing seawall project
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

In dollars and cents, Hurricane Sandy’s impact on waterfront seawalls and piers is still being calculated, according to Police Chief Ed Mello.

At the Harbor Commission’s Nov. 14 meeting, Mello summarized the damages, starting with the East Ferry seawall, where the hurricane complicated a repair project already underway.

Mello described a significant amount of damage to the East Ferry seawall, specifically citing “additional erosion” behind the already repaired area. Mello said Town Engineer Michael Gray is discussing the situation with the contractor. (In September, Cardi Corporation of Warwick won the bid to rebuild the seawall for $398,805.)

“The contractor has a little more work to do,” Mello said.

Mello, who also serves as executive director of the Harbor Department, said town officials are working with contractors to obtain repair estimates on the damaged assets at East Ferry, West Ferry and Fort Getty.

Mello said that Sandy also wreaked significant damage on the East Ferry woodpile pier, where the storm tore off some planks and decks, and “compromised” the electrical system, pump-outs and the water supply. Reagan Construction, the contractor hired to repair outhauls at West Ferry and Fort Getty, has been asked to give an estimate of the repairs at the East Ferry pier.

Moreover, the seawall was not the only infrastructure repair job in the works. The hurricane also added to the issues at West Ferry and at Fort Getty, Mello said. (In October, Reagan Construction won the bid to repair the dolphins and outhauls for a sum not to exceed $64,625.)

At Fort Getty, Mello said, the “pier suffered more pilings broken and some deck damage.” In addition, he reported “a significant amount of erosion to the washout and access road.”

At West Ferry, the list of problems included “a little bit of erosion, a drainage issue, and mitigation work to be completed at the end of the vinyl sheet wall to prevent further erosion.”

With the repair estimates in hand, Mello said, the next step will be to make an insurance claim and also apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance.

Michael de Angeli, chairman of the Harbor Commission, asked if the contractors’ estimates would be sufficient for FEMA and the insurance company.

“It will,” Mello said. “We are meeting with the contractor simply for a price estimate.”

Mello said the plan is to recoup the repair costs through FEMA, the town’s insurance provider, or a combination of the two.

Asked about the nor’easter that followed Sandy, Mello said the storm was fairly insignificant in comparison to the hurricane. He indicated additional damage had been negligible.

Commissioner Patrick Bolger asked about a boat that had been moored at Fort Getty during the hurricane.

Mello said the owner has since removed the boat but added that the boat could have created a liability. The town should have been able to order the owner to move the boat off the pier before the storm.

Commissioner Larry Eichler asked about the status of plans to “put some teeth” in leases that the town offers commercial operators and other boaters. This way, said Eichler, boats, kayaks and other craft could be moved off the piers in the event of a hurricane or major storm.

Mello said he plans to meet with the new Town Council and solicitor to talk about the leases and add language that would give the town greater authority.

Mello also reported the “hulk” that had been illegally anchored at Potters Cove during the summer has finally left Jamestown waters. The boat was towed to East Greenwich, he said, and the owner still faces fines.

The harbor ordinance gave Mello authority to handle the situation, but for the future, he said, the commissioners might consider revising the ordinance to add language specifically about abandoned boats.

In other business, the commissioners took a stand against two aquaculture projects.

First, the panel made a recommendation against a project slated for waters off Head’s Beach because the proposed location is in a designated mooring area and would have an adverse effect.

The commissioners also voted unanimously to recommend denial of a permit to Adam Silkes of North Kingstown to plant a mussel farm in waters off Fort Getty. The panel said the mussel farm would interfere with commercial and recreational fishing already being conducted in that area.

Silkes’ preliminary application was discussed at a hearing with the Coastal Resources Management Council. Mello said there was a “fair amount of opposition from commercial fishermen” against the mussel farm. He indicated Silkes could go forward with the application but would probably move the location.

“I suspect he’s going to move it off Narragansett or North Kingstown,” Mello said. “That’s probably the last we’ll hear.”

Even so, the commissioners decided to follow through with a formal stance against the project. However, the Harbor Commission only has the authority to make recommendations.

Finally, the panel approved Dutch Harbor’s request for eight additional commercial moorings. Eichler, who owns Dutch Harbor with wife Alison, abstained from the vote.

Over the past couple of years, Eichler said, the harbormaster has assigned new private moorings in the West Passage’s mooring zone, and therefore, the commercial operators were entitled to increase their moorings per the 3-2 ratio established in the ordinance.

In a letter to the harbor clerk, Eichler said he had been advised a total of 262 moorings are currently in the West Passage, and 162 are private and 100 are commercial. This meant Dutch Harbor was entitled to go up to 108 moorings, he said. Harbormaster Sam Paterson indicated there was sufficient room for the additional moorings.

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