NORWALK, Conn. – Debris on the Norwalk Veterans Park waterfront is remnants of a damaged launch ramp, according to two veteran harbor keepers, who are looking with suspicion at the dredging work done around the dock there.
Shellfish Commission Chairman Pete Johnson and former Shellfish Commission Chairman John Frank both say materials have been dumped on the natural beds near the dock. Johnson said the launch ramp has been damaged, a claim disputed by Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mocciae.
The Veteran’s Park dredging project was completed Jan. 22, according to a Jan. 23 email sent to Mocciae by Harbor Master Mike Griffin. Approximately 7,250 cubic yards have been removed from the area, the email said. That’s less than the plus/or/minus 8,200 cubic yards estimated in the bid submitted by Coastline Consulting and Development LLC. At $38 a yard, the estimate just for the dredging was $311,600. The total bid was $426,600, but Mocciae only had $380,000 to spend, and negotiated the deal down. It was authorized Dec. 10 by the Common Council.
By law, the dredging needed to be done by Feb. 1. The project is an example of “good governance,” Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) said in December, as doing it this year meant the state would reimburse 80 percent of the cost. The city saved $1 million by doing it now, as capping material – to seal the pollutants that came out of the harbor when they are disposed of – was available from a New Haven project, instead of needing to be purchased separately.
But Frank, a recent transplant to Florida whose continued attention to Norwalk’s harbor caused affectionate amusement last week among Norwalk Harbor Management Commission (NHMC) members, looked at photos of the work and said some of the dredged material had not been disposed of properly.
“Looks like some of the spoils (dredged material) were dumped just outside of the dredged area, although you can be sure the city paid for all the spoils to be taken away and dumped at an approved dump site clearly spelled out in the permit,” he wrote in an email. “Those high spots are illegally dumped spoils. Where they are is part of natural beds they should never have touched.”
Frank also suspects that there was damage done by a tugboat that recently ran aground off Vets Park.
“Before this contractor gets paid, the entire site should be inspected, at low tide, by the DEEP (the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) and payment should be held until the entire job is approved by DEEP,” he wrote. “I am told that a lot of water-soaked wood planks from the ramps were dug up and deliberately dumped nearby where they are covered at high tide.”
Which brings us to Johnson, who said at last week’s NHMC meeting that he had watched workers pull up the park’s launch ramp and throw the planks on a natural bed. Mocciae, also attending the meeting, said workers had pulled old boards out — not the ramp. The pile on the shoreline would be removed, he said.
“What damage has it done? Then dredging it, what damage has it done?” Johnson asked later.
“They must have pulled out old ramps,” NHMC member John Pinto said. “There’s five feet more depth there now.”
Johnson said it wasn’t just old boards, and that he stood and watched the work get done. He said he called Griffin and got nowhere.
“I’ll tell you right now, you can’t put your boat in at low tide. It’s going to fall,” he said. “… I was watching the guy picking them up and crushing them with the bucket and throwing them over. Now at low tide, when your boat is on a trailer, when you get down there your trailer is going to go down a good six to eight feet.”
Mocciae said a diver will be hired to survey the ramp.
“Due to some debris that was dredged, we are hiring a diver to make sure that the ramps are usable with no navigable hazards,” he wrote in an email. “The material looks like old boards that were dislodged over the years and submerged at the end of the ramps.”
The visitor’s dock will be put back in place after Parks and Rec receives approval from the Army Corps of Engineers on its application for a permit for commercial use of the dock. DEEP has already approved the application.
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