Norwalk rowers given conditional nod of approval – futilely

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk rowers who are being displaced by the state’s Walk Bridge project were on Tuesday given a green light to use the Veteran’s Park visitors dock for six months – if they can get all the necessary approvals.

“They wanted to start doing this on Feb. 1 and from my information that’s an impossibility to obtain all the necessary approvals, if they are able to obtain them at all. I want everybody to know the significance of this amendment, but it’s the law,” Council member Michael Corsello (D-At Large) said.

Corsello told Council members that he had been asked by Corporation Counsel on Tuesday to amend the request before the Council. Approval of the original proposal had been on the consent calendar before Corsello pulled it off, meaning it had been set for unanimous approval.

The Council went on to unanimously approve an agreement to allow the Water Sports Center, doing business as the Maritime Rowing Club, to use part of the Veterans Park parking lot and part of the visitors docks to launch their boats, from Feb. 1 to July 31, but with Corsello’s amendment mandating that the club obtain “all appropriate approvals including but not limited to approvals from the United States Army Corps of Engineers the Department of Environmental Protections Land and Water Resources Division.”

Minority Leader Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) pointed out that the Council had already approved the proposal a year and a half ago. That would have been for March 31 to July 31, 2017. He was told that the club did not get the necessary approvals.

The club has to get Army Corps permits and DEEP approval because “the city owns that dock. and it’s in the federal anchorage channel, and the use of the dock is for private/public use. A special grant was given the city to have the dock in the anchorage channel so any changes have to come for the Army Corps and the DEEP, and permits would have to be issued,” Harbor Management Commission Chairman Tony Mobilia said.

Shellfish Commission Chairman Peter Johnson spoke to the Council during the public speaking portion of the meeting, objecting to the plan.

“I have a 35-foot boat in the east channel,” Johnson said. “You are talking about moving the rowers into the east channel which is less than half the size, the width, of the west channel. I mean, I’m backing out of my slip, I can’t stop on a dime and they’re rowing along. According to the Coast Guard, they are not to supposed to be in the channel to start out with. There is no room between the moorings for them to row… Find another area for them to go because someone is going to get hurt, safety wise.”

“That is a sensitive area there,” Mobilia said. “According to the city statutes, the rowers cannot use the channels for their practice. So, they have been, through the harbormaster, they been allowed to use outside the channels for their practicing. Obviously to get in and out they would have to use the channels to get there but their actual practicing would be out of the harbor. In that particular area, the channel narrows down quite a bit so there is a concern that the boats would occupy too much of that little channel as they go out… There is a safety concern we would also have to look at.”

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