Fair Haven is just one of at least a dozen harbors along the south shore with a channel that is in need of dredging. Locally groups of boaters and water related business people are starting to get together with local politicians to explore ways of getting funding to deepen their channels. And a consultant hired by the planning departments of several lake shore counties is proposing that an association of harbor interests form and pursue a group effort to share costs of channel maintenance and to develop long term stable sources of funding. The various harbors have quite different histories of channel funding. In the interest of getting ideas for the future, let's look at the past.
Several smaller harbors with short entrance channels have used the DIY approach to keeping access to the lake. I sailed out of Pultneyville's privately owned harbor back in the 1970s. When a decision was made to upgrade facilities, the club's leadership and its landlord decided to maintain a four foot harbor ( the goal was a four foot channel and throughout the docking area). This was more or less successfully met by tacking additional fees onto the club membership for a number of years.
A private contractor with a barge mounted bucket type excavator did the work and the spoils were trucked off somewhere reportedly to Fred C's back forty. As I recall way back then we were each chipping in 100 bucks a year for several years. (That was real money back then, but we did it as we had no choice if we wanted to go boating!)
Other small private harbors have also used this approach including Brockport Y C and Hughes Marina. A more ambitious DIY effort financed mainly by waterfront property owners who chip in 45 $ a year as members of the Improvement Assoc, maintains a short six foot deep seasonal channel into Port Bay. They too use a shore mounted excavator. One problem with this harbor is that a bar can and sometimes does build up just off the entrance beyond the reach of the excavator.
This was not an “all weather” harbor and boats should continue on to another safe harbor on a rough day. East Bay, the 'budget bay' has about 30 people chipping in around 50 $ each and Blind Sodus according to their website is kicking in around $80 to 100 each. In real dollars this is considerably less money than we all ponied up back in the 70s at PYC.
There are larger longer channels filling in at the so-called 'federal' harbors ( Sodus and Fair Haven) and the other 'harbors of refuge' that were created or improved during the sport fishing boom most being old former commercial ports like Point Breeze, Selkirk or Irondequoit Bay. These newly improved channels funded by tax payers connected to areas with room for a transient boat to anchor overnight and or to boat service businesses that served the public. They were improved and stabilized with federal money. Most were then subsequently largely orphaned as far as federal maintenance money goes.
So how are we to get the money flowing again? And for harbors that once relied on Army Corp equipment and man power, who will now do the work?
Sandy Pond at the lake's east end is home to the Green Point Marina where a very determined owner ( whose family has been in Sandy Pond businesses since 1905) organized a DIY dredging effort using a private donation model not unlike Fair Haven's own SOFA effort. Cathy Goodnough and others started the channel maintenance association non profit 5013c in 2003. At first they contracted with a private company. This was very expensive and inadequate. So they bought their own hydraulic dredge, well used, for $50,000 a couple years ago.
They place 1800 feet of piping, 40 foot lengths, to discharge the sand a 1000 feet from the entrance as per their DEC permit. Volunteers do this and it's labor intensive and time consuming. It takes two or three weeks to set it up. The town supplies labor from the Highway Dept for a limited period. After that she told me on the phone, they can't find a dredge operator. She told me, “I could do it” but since she is also running a marina in the summer she presumably can't spare the time. Last year the dropping lake levels caught them short. (Their permit would have let them go longer, I think the lack of an operator was the main problem).
She cautions that this mode of DIY channel maintenance is 'time consuming'. Rounding up the volunteers and raising $ is a major chore though the town kicks in about a third of the cash and supplies some highway dept workers and maintenance. They move about 7000 cubic yards of sand a year ( which at 12 dollars a yard is a pretty good rate of pay back on the dredge cost exclusive of pipe).This volume is probably pretty comparable or may even be more than what Fair Haven or Sodus channels would need done on an annual basis.
The Sandy Pond group raises an amount of money each year for channel maintenance comparable to what Fair Haven spends on fireworks. The sum cited on their website is considerably less most years than the 30,000 to 50,000 spent by Wayne County on weed cutting for their four bays. So the finances do seem do-able from local sources.
In the short run collecting beer cans, holding bake sales and doing the old fashioned begging thing might work for a while for some of the harbors. And it may even be needed in the long run. But the paid consultant and planners have ideas for a longer term stable form of financing that make a good deal of sense to me given my abysmal fundraising skills! ( Just look at the number of books I didn't sell last year).