By Stephen J. Kotz
The Suffolk County dredge that appeared last week off Long Wharf in Sag Harbor is gone, but the estimated 8,500 cubic yards it sucked off the bay bottom now sits atop Havens Beach, where bulldozers were busy spreading it around last week.
The work, which was in the planning stages for the better part of a decade, apparently caught a number of people in the village by surprise, including members of the Harbor Committee, who last week said they knew the dredging was coming, but were not aware the material being removed from the bay bottom — known as dredged spoil — would end up on the village’s only bathing beach.
“Everyone has amnesia about the deal,” said Mayor Sandra Schroeder in response to complaints that the village had failed to adequately inform the public about the project. But the mayor herself said even she was not aware the county was planning to dump the material on the beach.
Nonetheless, she said she supported the decision. “I would have said okay” if asked, she said, noting that the material had been tested and found to be clean enough to be placed there.
Harbor Committee member John Parker said last week he was surprised the material was not placed landward of the beach, in a field that is now used as an informal dog park by village residents. But Ms. Schroeder said placing the spoil there could have caused drainage issues for surrounding properties.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees dredging permits, typically requires that the material be placed nearby. If the village had sought to have the material moved away, “we would have been obligated to pay for trucking,” Ms. Schroeder said.
At Tuesday’s village board meeting, Trustee Ken O’Donnell, the board’s liaison to the Harbor Committee and the village’s waterfront, reiterated that it was the county’s decision to place the material at Havens Beach.
“We made every effort to do what is best for the resident taxpayer,” said Mr. O’Donnell. “Where it was put was a county decision.”
William Hillman, the chief engineer for the county’s Department of Public Works, did not return calls seeking comment.
Mr. O’Donnell also stressed that the need to dredge a shoaled area to the west of Long Wharf had been discussed for years and that Inter-Science Research Associates, the village’s former environmental consulting firm, tested the material in 2012 and determined the spoils would be 99.9 percent sand.
Harbor Committee members on Monday said they were concerned about the appearance of the beach after the material had been placed there, saying the sand was coarser and there was more gravel in it than before.
Ms. Schroeder said it would settle out over time, and Mr. Parker said at Tuesday’s village board meeting that he had been assured by both Dee Yardley, the village’s superintendent of public works, and Harbormaster Bob Bori that the sand on the beach would be dragged out to remove coarser materials and that it would weather over time.
On Tuesday, Mr. O’Donnell said the village would be reaching out to the Southampton Town Trustees to dredge Sag Harbor Cove because that has not been done for some time either.
Additional reporting by Kathryn G. Menu