Terrapins May Push Colgate Basin Dredging Off

Posted on 14 November 2008

In July, the Sag Harbor Harbor Committee gave permission to dredge the tiny Colgate basin off Redwood in Sag Harbor Cove. On Monday they began to reconsider that approval when they learned there may be diamondback terrapins living in the cove which hibernate in the soft mud in the cove bottom.

Indigenous to the brackish waters of the mid-Atlantic coast, terrapins are entitled to special regulations through the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Redwood resident Cam Gleason told the members of the harbor committee on Monday. According to one document she presented, protection could be afforded the animals and their habitat if a petition by ten or more citizens was filed.

“I could easily get ten people together to petition on behalf of these turtles,” Gleason told the committee.

Gleason’s conversation with a member of the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton led her to believe the terrapins go into hibernation sometime in November or December and don’t resurface until April. The permit to dredge, which was granted on behalf of five homeowners on the basin, was limited to the period from October 15 to January 15.

“If you do the math, that doesn’t leave much of a window for them to dredge,” said Gleason.

Committee chairman Bruce Tait said he would speak to Southampton Town Trustee president Jon Semlear to confirm the terrapins’ presence.

“I really don’t want to disturb these little guys,” said Tait.

According to Gleason, there are “hundreds” of the terrapins living in the cove.

There was no action to cancel the dredging permit, pending confirmation from Semlear.

“At this point, I prefer to let sleeping terrapins lie,” said Tait.


Also on Monday the committee addressed an application from the owner of the schooner Mary E who has requested permission to tie up at Long Wharf next summer and operate as a commercial charter boat.

Last year the committee recommended, and the village enacted, legislation restricting long term docking on the wharf, since large boats were clamoring to the dock and ultimately blocking off any view of the water.

“Docking on Long Wharf would defeat the purpose of what we’ve done,” said committee member Jeff Peters.

“Absolutely,” agreed fellow board member Nancy Haynes.

“I think it would be great,” opined committee member George Pharaoh. ”At least you wouldn’t have a mega yacht blocking the view.”

Tait noted that the village’s own Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan actually encourages businesses such as charter boats, but added the business would also need to provide “upland support;” parking, for example.

Currently, the American Beauty, a tour boat that can be chartered, has a berth at Long Wharf each season; but, said Tait, the owner needs to bid for that permit each year.

“We have the American Beauty, but the village has said it doesn’t want to increase commercial activity [on village-owned waterfront],” said Tait.

“Unless they could supply a plan for parking, like parking at some other location, then this committee’s position may be that we are not supporting the application since they have no upland support,” said Tait.

Peters wondered if the boat’s owner would still be interested if they were told they would have to moor off and provide a shuttle to and from the vessel.

With no one representing the applicant at Monday’s meeting, Tait said the committee would send a letter instructing the applicant to attend the December 8 meeting to answer questions.


Also at the meeting Tait and Peters decided they would tour the site of the KeySpan remediation on West Water Street next Tuesday, November 18.


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