County’s decision not to dredge threatens Cases Creek

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Cases Creek meets Peconic Bay in Aquebogue. Officials fear a dredging project would compromise the dilapidated bulkhead to the left, near where the sand is collecting.

Suffolk County has indicated it will not dredge the mouth of Cases Creek in Aquebogue, which is currently filling in with sand, because it could lead to the collapse of a deteriorated bulkhead where the creek meets Peconic Bay, said Riverhead Town engineer Ken Testa.

But if someone doesn’t act, the creek soon may be completely closed off by sand, making it unnavigable, he told the Town Board at a work session last Thursday. About 20 boaters use the creek.

Failure to dredge the creek also will allow mosquitoes to flourish because its waters won’t flush into the bay, Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy noted.

A previous owner of the adjacent Dreamer’s Cove Inn had obtained a state permit to replace the wooden bulkhead at the edge of the hotel property, but sold the land before doing so, Mr. Testa said.

Mr. Testa said there is a town law that would allow the town to replace the bulkhead, but he said he’s would not yet recommend that. He said the town might want to send a letter to the owner of the bulkhead indicating that the town could replace it — at the property owner’s cost — if the property owner doesn’t do it.

Repairing the bulkhead first could enable the county to come in and do the dredging. The town does not have a machine to dredge waterways.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said there’s a difference between work in the creek and ordering an unsafe building to be demolished, something the town has done in the past.

“This is building a structure on someone’s property that’s supporting the hotel, and if we fail, and that hotel collapses, we’re on the hook,” he said. “As much as I’m very sympathetic to the people that want to use this creek, I don’t know how we can go in there and do this.”

If the town did go in, it could potentially be liable for any damage that might occur to adjacent structures during the job. Officials also said it would be more expensive if the town did the work, because municipalities are subject to labor laws that private contractors are not. The job would cost the town about $90,000, Mr. Testa said.

“I think it’s in the best interest of everybody if the property owner takes on this endeavor,” said assistant town engineer Christine Fetten.

Mr. Walter said the town will ask the owners of Dreamer’s Cove Inn to come to a future work session to discuss the situation.
Representatives of the inn did not return a call seeking comment.

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