Hempstead Town workers will begin a five-week dredging project Thursday to clear a channel for boaters between Point Lookout and Jones Inlet.
Town workers will begin dredging the sandbars and a Sea Dog Creek levee disposal area, which is located off the Loop Parkway drawbridge, that can fall to only 3-feet deep at low tide.
The town last dredged Sea Dog Creek in 2018, when workers removed about 8,000 cubic feet of sand, or about 15,000 tons of sand, from sandbars off the bay floor. The sand was removed to create access to the Great South Bay and restore marshland and other erosion.
Town officials said the dredging widened the channel, but didn’t fully correct the conditions of the waterway for boaters. Experts predict the channel would need about 80,000 yards of sand dredged to make the channel safer for boats to navigate, particularly during low tide.
"We have safety concerns at low tide, which can cause a number of nautical accidents," Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said. "We asked the state for a permit to start dredging."
The state Department of Environmental Conservation granted the town a permit this month to remove a shoal through July 30 that had become a navigational hazard.
All dredging is prohibited from Jan. 15 to Sept. 30 to protect the spawning and early life stages of finfish and shellfish, officials said.
The town is dredging using a $50,000 emergency contract through the state parks department and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). Kaminsky said the channel has "become nearly impassable."
"The South Shore of Long Island is a seagoing community and deserves to have navigable channels in our waters," Kaminsky said.
Sea Dog Creek became clogged by floodwaters after Superstorm Sandy created a shoal of sand just north of the Loop Parkway drawbridge between the eastern end of Sea Dog Creek and Long Creek.
Town officials said the shoal was the result of Sandy’s waves coming in and moving the sandbar from south of the Loop Bridge north and ending up in the channel.
The channel fills in with sediment every year from the changes in tide and waves and will need to be dredged every seven to 10 years, said Kristopher Kirchner, a supervisor with the town’s department of conservation and waterways.
Clavin said the town would try to do regular maintenance and dredge the channel every few years. The previous dredging project lasted 10 days and the town hopes to increase access to the channel this year by expanding dredging to five weeks.
"We’re working on a very aggressive timeline," Clavin said. "This probably should’ve been done earlier and we’re going to try to be proactive moving forward."
The town will do the work using in-house labor, Clavin said. He said the town would save $250,000 to $500,000 by not contracting the work to outside vendors.
Clavin said the town would keep the waterway open during the dredging and limit boat speeds to 5 mph. Boats will be able to move through the channel using a buoy passage way. Crews are doing work off Alder Island, one of the small islands connected by draw bridge to the Meadowbrook Parkway and Point Lookout. Officials said traffic on Loop Parkway where the work is being done should not be affected.