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Greenwich Harbor dredging project could require changes at Grass Island as feds study docks and more

Posted on June 22, 2022

GREENWICH — While the town waits for the go-ahead from the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Greenwich Harbor, it has been holding funds aside since the 2019-20 budget to pay for the massive project.

But to obtain that needed-approval, the town may have to adjust its policy on access to Grass Island, officials said last week.

And as the next fiscal year approaches on July 1, the Board of Estimate & Taxation is looking to move the previously approved $2 million allocation into the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

“We need to dredge especially around Grass Island,” town Harbor Management Commission Chair Bernard Armstrong told the BET Budget Committee last week. “That is badly silted in and it’s unlikely it will be much use as a marina unless we can get it dredged.”

To carry over the $2 million dredging allocation into the new budget, the full BET must approve it at its Tuesday meeting. Last Tuesday, the BET Budget Committee voted to recommend keeping the allocation.

The town’s $2 million is expected to cover only part of the dredging, with the rest coming from federal funding. Town Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Siciliano estimated that the project’s total price tag could be between $8 million and $10 million.

Greenwich Harbor is a federal channel, which makes the Army Corps the lead agency on the project, Siciliano said. The work would also involve the state and the town Department of Public Works.

Grass Island at issue

The Army Corps of Engineers must determine whether all uses of Greenwich Harbor are within the rules, Siciliano said.

“Any time the federal government puts up money, they make sure that everyone, not only the town of Greenwich, who has a dock in Greenwich Harbor, whether it’s the Delamar Hotel or the yacht club at the end and everyone in between, is in compliance with all of the federal regulations,” Siciliano told Greenwich Time.

“If you have a dock that encroaches into the harbor too much they may ask you to push it back. There’s a bunch of stuff they go through,”he said.

The town asked about any infractions, including at Grass Island, but they have not heard back, Siciliano said.

“We asked the Army Corps of Engineers at the beginning of the conversation (about the dredging) that if we are in violation with our policy, please send us either a letter or a notice of violation,” he said. “They sent us neither — and that was two-and-a-half years ago.”

Grass Island is home to a marina, with several uses for residents including a launch ramp, boat storage and 150 slips on a transient dock.

In 1985, the town put together regulations covering access to Grass Island and Cos Cob’s federal channel that allow residents and nonresidents to use the boat slips, Siciliano said. That policy was accepted and approved at the time by the Army Corps of Engineers.

As part of the process, he said, the town and the Army Corps will review the policy.

“It is all of our understanding that when the money comes, all of the private properties and all the town properties will have to look at whatever regulations they have on record to see if they have to update them,” Siciliano said. “Everything will be evaluated right down to where the docks are located.”

The town must also demonstrate, according to Siciliano, that it still has “an acceptable plan” for public access to Grass Island.

“We may not have to make any changes at all,” he said. “We may send them the plan and ask for their recommendations. Or we may decide we know a few things more than we knew in 1985 when we did the recommendations and we may tweak them before we send them up because it seems practical.”

The Board of Selectmen would have to make any changes to the policy, he said.

Budget Committee vote

The Budget Committee approved a plan to keep the $2 million as an active allocation, voting 3-0, with Chair Leslie Tarkington abstaining. She said she did not have enough information about the details of the project.

Tarkington suggested moving the item to the BET Budget Committee’s July meeting so Armstrong could come back with more information but none of the other three members were in favor of the delay.

“I think there’s some outstanding questions but I don’t want to hold up,” committee member Laura Erickson said. “I think we should continue the appropriation. We’ve halted a lot of projects in the last three years and I’m going to guess Greenwich Harbor hasn’t been dredged in a very long time and this project needs to be done. We have operations there and we need a clear channel.”

The full BET will consider the allocation at its meeting on June 21 meeting.



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