Sag Harbor Poised To Adopt New Harbor Regulations

Amendments to Sag Harbor Village's Waterways Law would require that boats mooring beyond the breakwater registere with the Harbormaster's Office. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

An update of Sag Harbor Village’s Waterways Law, which has been in the works for four years, could be ready for adoption when the Village Board meets on August 11.

The revision began in 2016 when New York State gave the village jurisdiction beyond the usual 1,500-foot limit, out to the main channel leading to Gardiners Bay, a distance of more than 4,000 feet in some cases.

The village sought the extended jurisdiction in part so it could keep better tabs on both boats that dock beyond the breakwater and the moorings that are placed there.
“There are bigger and bigger boats coming into the harbor, not necessarily to dock, but mooring out there,” said Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy, “and we want to have better control over who is in our harbor.”

Village officials, including Harbormaster Bob Bori, have said requiring boat owners to register their boats, including providing proof of insurance, would pay dividends after storms when boats occasionally break free from their moorings and either sink, are beached, are broken up on the breakwater, or collide with other vessels. At times in the past, village officials say, boat owners would not claim their boats, leaving the village to pay for the cleanup.

For now, at least, the village has no plans to charge fees for boats that are moored in what will now be called the Outer Management Area. “We don’t want to become known as an unfriendly harbor,” said Mr. Bori, “by requiring things that nobody else does.”

Boat owners would be required to notify the village if they stayed beyond a 48-hour period. If they wanted to stay a week or more during the same year, they would be required to get a permit. Commercial or foreign-flagged vessels would be required to contact the Harbormaster’s Office within 24 hours and complete a Port Security Form.

The new law includes the creation of a Harbor Management Area, which consists of four distinct areas — the Inner Harbor Area, which is that area inside the breakwater to the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge; the Cove Area, which includes the area south and west of the bridge; the Outer Management Area, which includes the area beyond the breakwater, and the Recreation Area, an area to the east that will be reserved for recreational activities, including fishing and clamming, where short-term anchoring will be allowed.

The Harbor Management Area also maintains an area called the Fairway, which extends from the breakwater eastward between 500 and 1,500 feet from shore, which is reserved for boat traffic and recreational activities such as waterskiing, with no mooring allowed.

Before the coronavirus pandemic forced the village to hold remote meetings, a large crowd turned out in March for a hearing on the new law. Many sought assurance that it would not impinge on their rights to operate businesses or enjoy their own recreational activities. Board members assured them at that time that the law would not impose additional restrictions on recreation or businesses.

One business has been singled out, however. The law contains language expressly prohibiting aircraft to land or take off from any area within the Harbor Management Area. Seaplanes will still be allowed to taxi to within 1,500 feet from shore, but Mayor Mulcahy stressed they would be required to transfer passengers and luggage to a water taxi.

John Parker, a member of the village’s Harbor Committee, urged the Village Board at last month’s work session to add language to the law that would ban cruise ships from the harbor. Although Mr. Bori said nobody needed to fear the arrival of a full-sized cruise ship because the channel is not deep enough, Mr. Parker said he meant the smaller vessels that are used by cruise lines for near-shore, or river, cruises.

The mayor said village officials believed the problem of cruise ships could be handled if it became a problem. “We are confident in the way we wrote the law that we can avoid that, without getting overly prescriptive,” the mayor said.