Some Copiague residents who enjoy the boating life are not pleased that a canal entrance from the Great South Bay into the Tanner Park Marina has not been dredged before boating season begins this spring.
They worry about potential public safety and environmental hazards as more return to the waters with the warmer weather.
The dredging at Howell Creek is scheduled for the fall, pending state permits, Babylon Town and Suffolk County officials said. Boaters say not getting the work done has led to sand shifting into the opening of the canal over the past four years, making that passage narrower, shallower and more difficult to navigate.
"I still kick up an enormous amount of silt from the bottom of the bay," said James Luisi, who lives at the Anchorage Condominiums and docks his boat nearby. "It’s not healthy for the bay, for marine life nor for bird life."
Sediments and debris build up at the bottom of water bodies over time, potentially exposing wildlife to pollutants, those residents say.
Brian Zitani, the town’s waterways management supervisor, said Babylon plans to place buoys next month to warn boaters about the low depths. Larger boats that are more than 30 feet long have more difficulty passing through the canal.
"I have a file of letters that people [who live] on the canal have written to me," he said. "I’m very much aware of which canals have issues."
The canal was dredged in 1981, Zitani said. Each year, Suffolk County’s Dredging Project Screening Committee receives requests from towns for dredging proposals. Once approved, the county’s department of public works applies for a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, along with a request for proposals. The county would pay for the dredging.
Ketchum Creek in Amityville, which Zitani said is in worse shape, is scheduled to be dredged this summer before the one in Copiague.
Derek Poppe, a county spokesman, said the cost for the dredging at Howell is approximately $250,000, while work done at Ketchum would cost about $500,000.
Linda Figueroa, who lives at the Harborview Estates and owns a dock for her boat, collected and sent letters from residents to the town about dredging the canal. Figueroa said families who own docks and have larger boats are unable to keep them near their community because they can't get through the canal.
"They already purchased a slip here and now they are paying again to keep it [the boat] at a marina or a yacht club," said Figueroa, who realized in 2019 that the canal needed dredging after her boat lifted "an enormous amount of mud."
Dianne Hawxhurst, a boat owner and a hamlet resident, said people with large boats could be reluctant to attempt and use the free pump-out station for sewage waste at the Tanner Park Marina because they could get stuck due to low tide. They have to use free pump-out stations in Cedar Beach and Gilgo Beach instead.
Dominick Nuzzi, chief of the Copiague Fire Department, said there’s been an increase in boaters but that there have been no boat safety incidents over the past year.
"We don’t feel that the public should be concerned from a safety standpoint," he said.
ABOUT THE TOWN CANALS
- 76 canals in Babylon Town
- Ketchum Creek in Amityville is scheduled to be dredged this summer and Howell Creek this fall
- Howell Creek was last dredged in 1981
Source: Town of Babylon