Norwalk harbor watchdogs: Dredging work damaged ramp, shellfish beds

Boards are piled in a heap last week just off the Norwalk Veterans Park visitors dock, visible at low tide on what Shellfish Commission Chairman Pete Johnson said is a shellfish bed.

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.

Low tide reveals an odd configuration last week off Norwalk Veterans Park.

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.

The Norwalk Veterans Park launch ramp area has been dredged in a deal city officials say was quite a bargain.


6 responses to “Norwalk harbor watchdogs: Dredging work damaged ramp, shellfish beds”

  1. John Frank sr

    It is obvious nobody made it clear to this contractor that there were natural shellfish beds outside the dredge area that should not be touched and damaged. It figures, Mocciae doesn’t understand the value of these natural beds or the part they play in supplying new generations of shellfish downstream. I wonder if the aquaculture division would send somebody to evaluate the damage. They have done that for us in the past when accurate numbers were needed in court after the State sued the owner of Calf Pasture island for similar damage.

  2. Oldtimer

    Has zoning approved any commercial use in that AAA zone ? Have they looked at the deed restrictions ?

  3. old salt

    Why would the City need to approve a new use? Mike & Mike can do anything they like so long as it generates revenue. Ask the Republicans on the Common Council

    Where is Mr Griffen? Shouldn’t the Harbormaster,Park Supervisor,Dock Manager be making sure this project goes smoothly? Is he on another vacation out of the Country? He needs to come out of hiding and help us find answers.

    Why are those yes men on the Harbor Commission sitting on the sidelines allowing this to happen? What happened to that guy Dandrea who was asking all the questions? Why is he so quiet? Did he get an envelope too?

    We continue to ask questions that will never be answered. Don’t we deserve to know whats going on? After-all its only public property and City tax dollars.

    This is not Civil or Transparent. Harry, why are you allowing this to go forward?

  4. NrwlkCT

    Time for Moccaie and ALL of his inept and (questionable) dealings having to do with Norwalk’s waterfront to be called before a public hearing. The man simply does NOT act in the interests of Norwalk’s citizens and its time we found out why!!

    This comment was edited to comply with our policy.

  5. Oldtimer

    Old Salt
    That guy D’Andrea is still around and probably has a better handle on this than any of us. When he was chairman of the harbor management commission you heard more from and about him because he acted as a spokesman for the commission. He hasn’t given up even a little bit, although he, like all of us, gets discouraged. The question about him getting an envelope to silence him is laughable to those that know him and does not deserve a polite response.

  6. spanner

    Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) should of asked who was doing the New Haven job farming the clean fill(Cashman),the very same company who was just in Norwalk river and said they were not interested in another job in Norwalk while they had the equipment here.It makes no sense someone isn’t giving the city the truth.While we are all getting the runaround any idea what was in the dredged material?Bet those test results will never be seen by the same public who uses the boat ramps and vets park.Its disgusting how facts on what is in the river bottom is kept from the public.The city needs to come clean what about our State reps State money is involved shame they cant wave this around at election time telling us all if they secured money for poor job and if they didn’t why not?What a catch 22 its great isn’t it? What experience does Mr Petrini have in dredging, to here him speak one would think he was an expert or have experts around him.If thats the case his experts failed him he failed us.Some of this debris could it be from a suspected landfill?Norwalk has buried a lot of problems over the years and it seems not all have been at city hall.Its sad none of this can even be blamed of Moccia.

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