Commission looks to update management plan for Southport Harbor
FAIRFIELD — It’s been 22 years since the Harbor Management Plan for Southport Harbor was finally adopted by the town. Now, the commission charged with executing that plan is looking to update it.
The Harbor Management Commission expects to spend about $13,000 on that update and has been approved for a $6,500 grant from the state’s Port Authority to help pay for it. The remainder will come from the Southport Harbor maintenance account, which is funded by mooring fees charged to boat owners who keep their vessels in the harbor.
Commission Chairman James Harman said a lot of the original objectives of the plan have been achieved, but at the same time, the panel is facing new challenges and goals.
“This will give us guidance on how to deal with new issues,” he said.
“This updated plan will also help us with getting permits and funding for future projects to improve the harbor, including dealing with the growing sandbar at the mouth of the harbor,” Harman said, adding that sandbar is probably the biggest issue they are dealing with now.
At Tuesday’s Board of Finance meeting, the finance members gave their approval for the grant acceptance.
Finance member James Walsh asked if the maintenance account, which totals about $136,000 right now, is just supposed to cover the costs of mooring repairs.
“It’s to pay for general improvements to the harbor,” Harman said, “including the maintenance of the moorings and engineering for projects, and if we have a major dredging project, that’s where the money comes from.”
The account does not, however, take care of the maintenance of the bulk head at Perry’s Green, which looks out over Southport Harbor. Town Engineer Bill Hurley said that is under the Department of Public Works’ jurisdiction, and while it is “always on the list” to do, it has never been approved.
“You’re updating the existing plan. How far out are you looking at?” finance member Sheila Marmion wanted to know, asking who would be doing the update. “Are you using the Harbor Management Commission as the expertise, or are you hiring a consultant?”
Harman said the funding for the update will largely go to an outside consultant, who would be doing the bulk of the work. He said the updated plan should take care of the next 15 years.
The commission also received approval for another grant, this time for the boat launch reconstruction at Ye Yacht Yard. The project is estimated to cost $277,478, with the town providing $11,478 toward the project. The remainder is again coming via a grant from the state Port Authority.
“This will allow us to complete a project we’ve been planning and working on for over 10 years to make improvements at Ye Yacht Yard,” Harman said. “We have a (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) permit to dredge near the launch ramp and dinghy docks, so they are usable at low tide.”
The town’s share will come from a capital account set aside several years ago for the ramp improvements, Harman added.
“If we take state funding, does that allow anyone to use the harbor, to use our launch?” Walsh asked. “Many other projects, once you stick your toe in the water, you must allow anyone in the state to use your asset.”
Harman said that is already the case. For example, he said, anyone can apply for a mooring — they don’t need to be a town resident.
“That was part of the whole discussion with the adoption of the original Harbor Management Plan,” the commission chairman said.
The dredging at the launch ramp will remove about 2,400 cubic yards of material, which Harman said is contaminated. The commission has approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the channel in Southport Harbor, to get rid of the contaminated material at the Midsound Disposal Site.
“Those projects are coordinated by the Army Corps,” Harman said.