The harsh winter of 2014-15 not only took a bite out of local roads, it also left its mark on a cherished Long Island institution: its boat marinas.
Municipalities across Long Island are spending a total of more than $500,000 to repair and replace dock pilings uprooted by ice that swelled on local waters throughout the frigid winter. And crews have spent the past several weeks retrieving dozens of poles found floating in bays and harbors.
Town and village officials said crews are working frantically to ensure marinas open on time next month.
"It was substantial damage -- damage that we haven't seen since I've been with the town, which is over 15 years," Brookhaven Town Parks Commissioner Ed Morris said. The town is spending $325,000 on contractors hired to replace or reset about 400 poles.
"The bay was frozen for a good month and it was thick," he said. "It wasn't a thin sheet."
Most of the damage occurred at marinas on Great South Bay and Fire Island, though some problems were reported at North Shore marinas, officials said. Huntington Town is making $18,000 worth of repairs, and Smithtown sustained $12,000 in damage, officials said.
The longer water is frozen, the more ice grows until it dislodges pilings from water bottoms.
"The ice lifted the pilings up off the ground," said Bob Brandt, co-owner of Patchogue-based Stout Construction, which was hired by Brookhaven and Oyster Bay to replace and reset pilings. "I had some reports of marinas that had 10-plus inches [of ice]. It was pretty substantial ice. We hadn't seen that in awhile."
"Some of them were just elevated, some were literally pulled out of the water, falling over onto the dock," Lindenhurst Village Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Cullinane said. "It was that last real cold snap that finally did them in. . . . They were holding on all winter long and then all of a sudden -- boom."
North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said inspectors were examining docks for signs of damage. "Our officers have observed many loose pilings across the bay, and bay constables have gathered several and towed them to Town Dock, to keep them from becoming a hazard to navigation," she said in an email.
Officials contacted by Newsday said marinas are expected to be fully functional by summer's unofficial opening on Memorial Day weekend.
Some municipalities, such as Bellport Village and Southampton and East Hampton towns, use de-icing devices known as ice-eaters, or "bubblers," that circulate water so that it doesn't freeze around pilings and docks. Bellport bought 20 of the devices for $567 apiece -- and they're worth the price, Mayor Ray Fell said.
"It stops us from having to reset all of the poles again in the marina," he said. "It works out very well. So we had no problems with ice this winter."
With Denise M. Bonilla, Sid Cassese, Lauren R. Harrison and Deborah S. Morris