Dredging starts Monday at Wading River Creek

Town, county and state officials gather Tuesday at Wading River Creek to announce that a rare July dredging will start there Monday.

The much-anticipated dredging of shoaled-in Wading River Creek will start Monday, officials announced this week.

Under the terms of an emergency permit Riverhead Town has acquired from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the work must be completed by July 31.

“To have this creek dredged in July is a miracle,” state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said during a press event Tuesday.

Restrictions related to winter flounder, piping plover nests and other wildlife usually mean area creeks, canals and inlets can only be dredged around December. But a harsh winter could reverse the work, as storms shift the sands. The DEC allowed the rare July dredging this year because of a string of severe storms this past winter.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) both said the dredging permit was the result of bipartisan collaboration among town, state and federal officials.

“This is government at its best,” Mr. Bishop said.

Officials said the dredging was needed because the Wading River Fire Department or other emergency responders would otherwise be unable to launch rescue vessels from the creek in the event of an emergency in Long Island Sound. The nearest access point to the Sound is on the locked-up property of the defunct Shoreham nuclear plant.

“In an emergency situation where a boat is sinking, time is something they don’t have,” Mr. Walter said.

The job will cost $100,000, $75,000 of which will be paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The town and county will each kick in $12,500.

The dredge spoil — or muck pulled from the creek bed — will be placed on the beach in front of homes along Creek Road to offset erosion in that area, Mr. Walter said.

Asked about the long-term plan for the creek, Mr. Walter said there are several possibilities, all of which would need state and federal approvals.

One would be “overdredging the mouth of the creek to create a big hole, which would take longer to fill in,” he said.

Another would be to redirect the creek back to its natural path. The creek previously met the Sound on the power plant property, at the point where the former Long Island Lighting Company creek meets the Sound. Its path was redirected by LILCO about 40 years ago.

That remedy would involve digging out a path to that route and filling in the current creek, Mr. Walter said.

Building new jetties also has been discussed as an option, but is too expensive and not favored by the DEC, Mr. Walter said.

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