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Jul 6, 2010 6:07 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Contractor, marina owner cited by DEC for dredging

Jul 6, 2010 6:07 PM

Two Montauk marine contractors and a marina owner are in hot water with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation this week over allegations of illegal dredging in Lake Montauk.

The DEC received a complaint this spring from the Group for the East End after members of the organization reported in May that a road had been built in a tidal wetland at Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe & Marina on East Lake Drive to allow a dump truck to drive into wetlands near where the dredging took place. The Group also provided the DEC with photographs of a dewatering lagoon with pipes that drained silt and sediment into Lake Montauk.

Jeremy Samuelson, who works as an environmental advocate for The Group for the East End and is a member of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, said that members of both groups who live near the marina brought the dredging to his attention when they first noticed the road being built on the sandbar late this spring.

Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe & Marina owner Richard Gibbs and Keith Grimes, owner of the contracting firm Keith Grimes Inc., were charged by the DEC with dredging and constructing a road in a tidal wetland without a permit, discharge of dredge waters to surface waters without a permit, and dredging after the closure of the June 1 dredging window.

The sandbar on which the road into the wetlands was allegedly constructed is alongside the docks at the marina and is easily visible from it.

Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Grimes were also charged with placing dredge spoil in navigable waters without a permit, creation of a solid waste management facility without a permit, illegal disposal of solid waste, and two other violations related to not having received State Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems permits from the DEC.

Susan Grimes, Mr. Grimes’s wife, who owns Sagaponack Sand and Gravel in Bridgehampton, was also charged with two counts of operating a solid waste management facility without DEC authorization and storing construction and demolition debris on her business’s property in violation of her establishment’s DEC mining permit.

DEC representative Aphrodite Montalvo said Tuesday that Mr. Grimes and Mr. Gibbs could face fines of up to $2 million total for their role in the alleged violations and Mrs. Grimes could face fines up to $75,000.

Ms. Grimes said Tuesday that she and Mr. Grimes had believed that all the permits were in place before they began work and that Mr. Gibbs had been handling the permit process. She added that they would not have begun work if they had believed permits had not been in place. She said that the work is finished, although a large pile of dredged sand is still waiting on the shoreline for DEC approval that it be moved.

Mr. Gibbs could not be reached for comment, though he told Newsday last week that he believed that he had a verbal agreement from the DEC to continue the work.

“I don’t know how these guys could have racked up any more violations if they tried,” said Mr. Samuelson, who added that it was clear from aerial photos that the silt being pumped back into the lake was disturbing the water.

“You can see that the water is a different color. In layman’s terms, it’s all mucked up, with suspended sediments. Throughout the Lake Montauk industrial area, there are heavy metals and now they’re suspended in the water column. This is critical to eelgrass and clams and scallops and oysters. For any type of mollusk that’s trying to grow in that environment, this is the worst time to do this. This is when so many finfish species are returning or the hardshells are doing their filter feeding, and we’ve resuspended all this contaminated sediment. It’s not analyzed and it’s transported off site. To take this stuff and spread it all around the lake when we don’t even know what’s in it is horrific. The mere act of resuspending all this sediment is unforgiveable.”

Mr. Samuelson added that the suspended sediment smothers eelgrass and that there are only two eelgrass beds in the entire lake, one of which is just outside Mr. Gibbs’s marina.

“If you want to know the effect of this, come back next year and look at the size of the eelgrass bed right in front of Rick Gibbs’s property,” Mr. Samuelson added.

In a release last week announcing the charges, DEC representatives stated that they had issued a permit authorizing Mr. Gibbs to replace a bulkhead and perform maintenance dredging in 2004, but that permit expired in 2009. The DEC also noted that the current dredging operation is much different than was originally authorized.

The original permit did not allow for the use of hydraulic dredging equipment or the expansion of a sandbar for the creation of a road. It also did not allow for the creation of a diked area for dewatering the dredge spoil or the placement of the dredge spoil on a sandbar in the tidal wetland.

Mr. Samuelson said that he had initially approached East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson about the problem, but Mr. Wilkinson had rebuffed Mr. Samuelson’s attempt to involve the town. Mr. and Mrs. Grimes were both donors to the town’s Republican Committee during Mr. Wilkinson’s election campaign last year.

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These owners are hard working men & lady and are not interfearing with the lake the DEC is way off the grid on this one. The marina has shallow water from normal build up, i kept a boat there 20 yrs ago and the same problem exsisted. It has to be dreged.
By sergeant01 (3), EastHampton on Jul 10, 10 7:21 AM
If dredging is needed, they should have obtained the proper permits. Instead they chose to dredge at a time of the year when our wetlands are very fragile. You cannot claim that they did not know what they were doing. They knew exactly what they were doing and thought they would get away with it.... If you own a business on or near the water, you have a responsibility to do your best to protect the wetlands. I know many hardworking people who don't have to break the law...
By kelly (75), hampton bays on Jul 10, 10 8:44 AM
4 members liked this comment
Read the EH Star. Larry Penny said the Town notified the DEC as soon as the complaints came in. The DEC visted the site several times and did not issue stop work orders. Then, when the project was essentially finished they issued citations? Is there something wrong with this scenario? Was there politics involved?

Larry Penny, the foremost expert on the east end when it comes to eelgrass has also said the maintenance dredging that was being done would actually help the eelgrass by ...more
By formertbm (76), east hampton on Jul 10, 10 9:59 AM
As usual, that smell ain't low tide...
By Mr. Z (11364), North Sea on Jul 10, 10 12:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Theres alot of confusion here. The trustees can't get a dredging permit after Apr.1. Even the great Larry Penny can't get it for them. If a clammer has one under size clam the DEC nails them. You can't pee behind a bush before CCOM whines to the town board. Every neighbor screams if you even set foot on PUBLIC property and they claim private property as birth right. Rick Gibbs has been in the planning process for all things on this property for more then 10 years. He didn't know he needed town permits ...more
By facts man (148), east hampton on Jul 10, 10 1:58 PM
2 members liked this comment
The only town permit needed for this project was a natural resources special permit which was in place.It seems as if Samuelson want's to run for office with the McGintee Party and is trying to make his bones by picking on a hard working local family. So factsman, it's time for you to start researching your facts instead of opining, and remember the guy who claims the public property as his own is only a few properties south of Gibbs. Gee I wonder who made the complaint?????
By montaukman (98), easthampton on Jul 10, 10 4:38 PM
I love the part in the story about heavy metals. Any marine contractor or marina owner must send bottom samples to the DEC before work can start. Does Jeremy Samuelson have the scientific credentials to make these charges if so what are they? How does he prove the charges, and who did the East Hampton Press fact check with? There should be an easy answer here I would think. Let us in on it would you Beth.
By independent observer (34), east hampton on Jul 10, 10 10:23 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By SirHampton (60), quogue on Jul 11, 10 6:50 AM
DEC just needs to piss off!!!! Who watchs them???
By GoldenBoy (341), EastEnd on Jul 11, 10 2:43 PM
Enim, quis custodiet, ipsos custodes...
By Mr. Z (11364), North Sea on Jul 11, 10 7:06 PM
Let us all not forget that Lake Montauk is essentially man altered due to Fischer opening it to the sea, changing it from fresh to salt water and introducing tidality. With all this considered it is pretty ridiculous to start ranting and raving about eelgrass which really shouldn't be there anyway. It wasn't turned into a harbor for the sake of eelgrass, clams, fish or any other living thing but Human Beings for their recreational needs. It is now a great benefit to those who make their living from ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 11, 10 11:32 PM
omg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! someone moved some mud!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! its the hamptons, they're going to jail for life!!!!!
By SirHampton (60), quogue on Jul 12, 10 1:57 AM
Theres a lot of stuff going on here with a lot of people and a lot of hippocricy. Look at the past stands and statements of the players. Larry Penny, for one, made statements aplenty about eel grass that contridict his statements here. The DEC is the only agency who didn' t find it convient to look the other way even though late. Its not a question of dredging but a question of who you know who can ignore the rules for you. Who were they? Fact
By facts man (148), east hampton on Jul 12, 10 7:00 AM
Factsman, I'm sorry but when the Gov't is juxtaposed with a private sector company I'll always take the word of the citizen over a cover my butt Gov't employee.
By montaukman (98), easthampton on Jul 12, 10 11:16 AM
This story has parallels with property (land), where home/property owners find the rules ("law") expensive, time consuming and otherwise inconvenient for their purposes, despite the rules being well established. In fact when it comes to wetlands / shore areas, marina owners are more like high-stakes (speculative) property developers - they are keenly aware of the rules and what is and isn't allowed, and how important it is to have every piece of paper properely in order.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Jul 12, 10 5:39 PM