Smithtown Town officials called a special meeting on Thursday morning to approve a new marine permit to allow county contractors to begin dredging the Nissequogue River to keep it open and safe for navigation after recent storms.
Suffolk County contractor, Port Jefferson-based Gibson & Cushman, is expected to begin moving equipment into place as early as Saturday, ahead of original plans that called for a Sept. 30 start date.
"The contractor believes the additional week is significant," wrote Russell Barnett, Smithtown's director of Environmental Protection, in a letter dated Sept. 17.
The county's project aim to dredge the 6-foot deep channel along the Nissequogue River from Old Dock Bluff boat ramp north to Smithtown Bay. It estimates that roughly 93,000 cubic yards of silt and debris will be removed from the river's bed. It will cost approximately $2.09 million.
"The prime purpose is to open up the channel for navigation, so boats can get in and out unhindered," said Gilbert Anderson, Suffolk County commissioner of Public Works, told Newsday.
Under the marine permit approved Thursday, all the dredged material will be deposited on Short Beach in Smithtown or Sunken Meadow State Park Beach in Kings Park to help aid in beach nourishment.
The county has also secured permits from the Town of Brookhaven to dredge Stony Brook Harbor. The goal is to have both projects completed by March 31, 2014, but Smithtown officials have approved for continued maintenance dredging through Sept. 30, 2016.
The Nissequogue River's south marine was last dredged in 2011 to improve its usability and prevent boats from scraping along the river's bottom at low tide.
Ron Foley, Long Island's Regional Director of State Parks, told Patch there was one complaint about noise filed by a local resident as crews worked "long hours" to remove silt from the south marina channel. Foley said the complainant was satisfied with an explanation of the work.