Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray sent up a post-Hurricane Sandy caution flare to mariners, as Long Island’s boating season is about to commence. Hempstead Town’s Conservation and Waterways team has spent almost six months clearing local bays and waterways of debris from the Superstorm, including lumber, damaged boats, sections of bulkhead, broken docks, machinery, entire bay houses, roofing and more. Despite the removal of 800 tons of Sandy sea debris by town personnel, hazards continue to float into town waterways, presenting serious hazards to boaters. Joining Murray at a post-Sandy boaters’ safety briefing was Rob Weltner, President of Operation SPLASH, a group that has also been removing debris from coastal waterways. Additionally, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Angie Cullin, Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin and New York Marine Trades Association Executive Director Chris Squeri were present at the boater safety event. The briefing focused on advising boaters to exercise caution when navigating Sandy-slammed waterways, and requesting the help of mariners in reporting debris in local waterways.
“In the almost six-month timeframe since Hurricane Sandy, Hempstead Town’s Conservation and Waterways team has cleaned up more than 800 tons of storm debris from our bays and waterways,” commented Murray. “However, there is more Superstorm material floating into our waterways on a daily basis, and it can present a real and serious hazard to boaters. We are here to advise boaters to enjoy our waterways, but to exercise caution as they navigate area waters. We are also asking mariners to report waterway debris to the appropriate authority to be removed from our local waters.”
The town has been joined by Operation SPLASH, a volunteer organization that cleans up debris from local waterways. They’ve recovered a grandfather clock, a soda vending machine, sections of dock, furniture and tons of other material that Mother Nature has discarded in our coastal areas.
“Operation SPLASH would like to wish everybody a safe and happy boating season,” said Rob Weltner, President of Operation SPLASH. “As much as Superstorm Sandy has changed everyone’s lives, it has also changed the life of the bay. There is more debris than ever. Please take it slow your first few times out there this season, so that you can safely enjoy the scenery of the South Shore Estuary.”
A complicating factor associated with recovering post-Sandy marine debris is that it is dynamic, moving in and out of waterways with surging and receding tides. Additionally, wind shifts, tidal dynamics and water currents move water-bound hot tubs, bulkheads, furniture and other items around the waterways of the entire south shore. These items can present serious hazards to those operating boats, wave runners, sailboats and other watercraft. The debris can be particularly threatening to water skiers and those being towed behind boats on tubes and other inflatables. As a result, Murray is urging boaters to proceed with caution, piloting waterways slowly, especially during the early part of the season.
“Boaters should be prepared, not scared, as they navigate area waterways,” said Murray. “Please pilot boats with caution, and be on the look out for storm debris in the water.”
The Supervisor, County Executive and SPLASH also asked for the assistance of boaters in locating storm debris. Wood, sections of dock and other debris in Hempstead Town bays should be reported to Hempstead’s Bay Constables at (516) 801-5608. Impediments to navigation in Jones Inlet and other federal channels should be brought to the attention of the U. S. Coast Guard by calling (516) 785-2921. To volunteer for waterway clean-ups or to report debris in the marsh, visit Operation SPLASH at www.operationsplash.net. In the case of emergency or serious accidents on the water, call 911 for the Nassau County Police Department’s Marine Bureau.
Officials indicated that as the boating season proceeds and mariners assist officials by reporting debris, the problems and hazards associated with floating debris would diminish. SPLASH representatives and town and county officials also cautioned boaters to be attentive to changes in the bottom depths of bays and waterways, as the Superstorm has caused shoaling and other changes to the topography of the bottoms of bays/waterways.
“It’s been almost six months since Hurricane Sandy ravaged structures on land as well as our marine recreational and fishing areas,” concluded Murray. “By exercising caution and reporting storm debris in our waterways, boaters can enjoy the summer and be safe as they navigate the best waterways anywhere.”