With dredging season on Long Island set to end tomorrow, January 15, with the start of the winter flounder spawning season, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has received an extension from the state DEC to dredge Mattituck Inlet beginning Jan. 21.
Southold Town Attorney Martin Finnegan told the Southold Town Board at Tuesday morning’s work session that Port Jefferson-based Village Dock, Inc., which won the Army Corps contract, will mobilize their equipment this week and work “24-7” to dredge the inlet, finishing on Feb. 28.
Mr. Finnegan said it took the town, the Army Corps and the contractor some time to work out the exemption from DEC rules.
“There’ve been no flounders spawning in that creek for a very long time,” said Councilwoman Jill Doherty, a former president of the Town Trustees, who oversee the town’s waterways.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been planning to dredge Mattituck Inlet, which opens up to Long Island Sound, for more than a decade. Funding for the project got the go-ahead last May. Late last year, Village Dock Inc. won the bid to remove 90,000 cubic yards of sand from the inlet, dredging it to a depth of 11 feet. They are also slated to remove 10,000 cubic yards of sand from Breakwater Beach to the west of the inlet, which will be placed on the sand-starved eastern side of the inlet.
The dredging had originally been scheduled for 2011, but the Army Corps decided instead to do an emergency dredging of the inlet to Lake Montauk, which contains the state’s largest fishing fleet. Montauk’s fleet is orders of magnitude larger than Mattituck’s, but Mattituck is the only navigable inlet to the Long Island Sound east of Port Jefferson Harbor, and is a crucial safe harbor for boaters to shelter from heavy weather on the Sound.
The Mattituck dredging plan is unusual — it’s designed to not only maintain access to a navigable waterway, but also to repair damage done by the Army Corps, as is required under Section 111 of the 1968 River and Harbor Act. The Army Corps built the two jetties at the entrance to the inlet in 1906. It is slated to cost the federal government more than $2 million.
The few fishermen who still use Mattituck Inlet must time their passage through the inlet at high tide to avoid running aground.
“This whole project started under my predecessor, Horton,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell at Tuesday’s work session. “Not Josh Horton, Barnabas Horton.”
Barnabas Horton was one of the founders of Southold Town in 1640.