By Stephen J. Kotz
If the appearance of a Suffolk County dredge off of Long Wharf late last week did not catch Sag Harbor residents by surprise, the sight of wet sand and black-colored water being pumped onto Havens Beach last weekend certainly did.
“It’s clear the community wasn’t aware of what is going on,” said John Shaka, the chairman of the village’s Harbor Committee. “When the community sees that pipe and that water, they freak out. And when that happens, they come running to us with questions.”
But Dee Yardley, the village’s superintendent of public works, said the dredging has been in the works for more than a decade, with the village asking the county to dredge the shoaled area to the west of the pier since 2005. “They should be showing up every 10 years to do maintenance dredging,” he said of the county dredging crews. “I’ve been around 25 years, and I haven’t seen any dredge here.”
Mr. Yardley said as part of the state environmental review process, the county was required to take core samples of the area to be dredged to make sure it was safe to be placed on the beach. “Nothing contaminated” is being pumped there, he said.
Mr. Shaka said the village board oversees dredging and that village Administrator Beth Kamper informed the Harbor Committee in September that the village had received a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation for the work, which was originally supposed to take place last month.
The dredging crew is working in a 300-by-500-square-foot area to the west of the wharf and plans to deepen it to a depth of 6 feet at mean low water.
John Parker, another member of the Harbor Committee, whose home is on Shaw Road, just east of Havens Beach, said the committee had not been informed that an estimated 8,500 cubic yards of dredged material would be placed on Havens Beach — the village’s only public bathing beach — until an email was distributed last week.
“In the past, they would put it on the field behind Havens Beach,” he said. “Why they wouldn’t have announced it, I don’t know. I’m not even sure this is something the village board went over in public.”
Mayor Sandra Schroeder could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Parker said he had heard from a number of neighbors, who were concerned about the appearance of the water being pumped out during the dredging process. It was nearly as black as oil over the weekend, but by Tuesday, it had turned clear.
Rick Drew, an East Hampton Town Trustee, who has clashed with the village over his concerns that its sewage treatment plant could be polluting the bay, said this week he was concerned that even though the county had tested the material, polluted material could end up on the beach.
“The Trustees weren’t notified about it,” he said. “We had to hear about it from the residents of Sag Harbor.”
Earlier this week, police barricades were placed on Bay Street at the entrance to Havens Beach, while bulldozers moved the newly deposited sand around the beach. Pedestrians were allowed to enter the park, but were shoed away from the parking lot. A village Highway Department employee said the crews had requested that residents be kept out of the area as a safety precaution.
Mr. Yardley said the DEC prefers that dredged material be left nearby and not transported over long distances. He said areas along North Haven and Sag Harbor Cove had been considered before the Havens Beach site was chosen.