Harbor Committee Claims Dredged Spoils Brought Rocks

Photos provided by Harbor Committee member John Parker show many large rocks, which he says were not there before the dredging project. The photos were taken on December 28, 2017, during a winter low tide. John Parker photos

By Christine Sampson

According to Sag Harbor’s Harbor Committee, among the dredged spoils dumped onto Havens Beach this past fall with Suffolk County’s Long Wharf dredging project were quite a few large rocks and pieces of bricks that will make for an unpleasant beach-going experience for bathers once summer comes around again.

Harbor Committee member John Parker told the Sag Harbor Village Board during its January 9 meeting the committee has found the rocks to be visible at winter’s low tides. Having sent the board several photos ahead of time, he placed a handful of baseball-sized rocks on the village board’s dais to illustrate the Harbor Committee’s findings.

“It has been a very sandy beach without a lot of large rocks,” Mr. Parker said. “Those are going to be a danger to people running into the water, trying to wade in. This isn’t anybody’s fault here — it happened as part of the dredging and no one expected it.”

He said the Harbor Committee is recommending the village address it immediately, before the warm weather returns and particularly if a permit is needed from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Winter conditions are the best time to be able to access where the rocks are,” Mr. Parker said.

Another view of the rocks identified by the Harbor Committee as having been dredged up at Havens Beach. John Parker photo

But members of the village board did not accept the Harbor Committee’s claim that rocks appeared as part of the dredged spoils, saying the committee lacked evidence that the rocks are a brand-new issue.

“Long Island is a glacial deposit,” deputy mayor Ken O’Donnell said. “You’re going to find all sorts of rocks out there.”

Trustee Jim Larocca, who visited the dredging site twice, said he did not recall seeing rocks in the slurry.

“We don’t have anything that suggests the confirmation that these rocks came from the dredging,” Mr. Larocca said.

Mr. Parker reiterated his position that “those are not rocks that were there before. This is not a small change and it’s not something that you can confuse with a natural phenomenon.”

Mayor Sandra Schroeder said Tuesday the village is not likely going to take action immediately.

Instead, she said, it will most likely bring in the usual sand sifters before the start of the busy season, and see what can be done if the rocks Mr. Parker said he has found are indeed a problem. Ms. Schroeder also said highway superintendent Dee Yardley took up the question with the county.

“They did tell him during the process of the dredging, water might have pushed the sand around and uncovered the rocks,” she said. “Dee Yardley has talked to Mr. Parker. He told him it would be taken care of in the spring.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Parker noted the dredging did accomplish its goal of replenishing sand to widen the beach and said it “should be a very positive improvement for beach users.”

However, he said, the report from the Harbor Committee was simply meant to make village officials aware of conditions that may require remediation.

“Even though core samples of the area to be dredged were certified as being appropriate for beach replenishment, it is unclear how much of the dredged spoils may have contained material that could be considered unsuitable,” he said Tuesday. “Changing tides, winds, waves and even ice flows, can wash away or deposit material and change beach conditions rapidly. Continued monitoring will reveal what future actions may be necessary to assure that the beach is in good shape for the summer season.”