Anglers navigating Sea Dog Creek near the Town of Hempstead, New York, are now able to safely travel the creek with relative ease in shallow areas this summer; however, this hasn’t always been the case. In 2012, clogged floodwaters created by Superstorm Sandy made it almost virtually impossible for large commercial vessels to navigate charted waters between the eastern end of Sea Dog Creek and nearby Long Creek.
Recently local workers from the Department of Conservation and Waterways used an Ellicott 460SL “Swinging Dragon®” dredge, known as the “Hempstead Bays” to remove 8,000 cubic yds³ (6,116 m³) of sand from nearby Sea Dog Creek. The swinging ladder dredge was purchased by the Town of Hempstead from dredge manufacturer Ellicott Dredges in 2008. Crews used the dredge to remove sand and water to dig down to approximately 12 ft (3.6 m).
One of the many challenges the crew faced during the dredging process included working within very short dredging windows. In addition, they were not allowed to use clean sand within the boundaries of regulated title zones. Despite some limitations, crews were able to overcome these obstacles to complete the project over the course of two weeks
Impact of Hurricane Sandy
There is little doubt that Hurricane Sandy had a tremendous impact on the local region. In fact, when flooded waters swept through the local area, it created a shoal near the eastern end of Sea Dog Creek causing it to clog making virtually impossible for casual boaters to navigate the creek.
Conservation Biologist Dr. James Browne noted that Hurricane Sandy had a tremendous influence on the formation of a sandbar causing the waterway to clog.
“Simply put, was sand stirred up along the beaches, and ebb shoal bar. The materials were then pulled into the bay during the storm surge. The sand was then deposited at some locations which slowed the flow of water. When conditions returned to normal, there was very little to no water in some of the channels. Traditionally some of these areas range from 4 to 6 ft. in depth. The minimized water levels were then exposed causing a sandbar to form at extreme low tides. This made it hard to navigate a vessel without water underneath of its keel,” noted Dr. James Browne.
The Environmental Impact On Sea Dog Creek
Sea Dog Creek is the only inland waterway route for vessels to navigate north of the fixed bridge close to nearby Point Lookout. The recent improvements now make it easier for commercial boats to travel freely. However, a more pressing problem includes making better use of clean materials that include the enhancement of salt marsh projects.
Hempstead council members were unable to obtain marsh restoration on the emergency permit granted to them by the NYSDEC. Additional funding is being sought for future marsh restoration work sourcing material from Sea Dog State marshes and shoals. The hope is that the additional work will reduce flooding during future storms.
Almost every channel in the surrounding region remains clogged. Therefore additional dredging is required to keep waterways clear. Thankfully, the Town of Hempstead has the necessary dredging equipment in-house to address environmental disasters. This keeps recovery costs reasonably low should an unfortunate incident occur in the future that impacts nearby waterways.
The NYSDEC Funds Sea Dog Restoration Project
A group of officials representing the Town of Hampstead led by Councilman Timothy D’ Esposito asked the NYSDEC to accelerate the necessary dredging permit process after several vessels ran aground due to shallow water conditions.
Town officials needed a state waiver from the NYSDEC to begin dredging in state intercoastal waterways. That’s because this is typically the time of year when spawning season starts for flounder fish.
Thanks to the help of the NYSDEC the Town of Hempstead Department of Conservation and Waterways was granted a 10-year dredge permit to maintain Sea Dog Creek.
The entire operation was completed under an approved emergency permit issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC.) Councilman D’Esposito noted, “Our biggest challenge was obtaining the necessary permits that were needed to begin the Sea Dog Creek restoration project.”
Hempstead town officials are now planning to start additional dredging projects slated to begin in the fall of 2018.