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Dec 14, 2010 1:07 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Marina Owner, Contractors Fined In Lake Montauk Dredging

Dec 14, 2010 1:07 PM

The owner of a Montauk marina and two contractors have agreed to pay up to $130,000 in penalties for illegally dredging in Lake Montauk earlier this year, according to the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC uncovered the dredging project in May, after the Group for the East End, an environmental watchdog, filed a complaint. Richard Gibbs, who owns the restaurant and marina Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe on the northeast side of Lake Montauk, Keith Grimes, who owns the contracting firm Keith Grimes, Inc., and his wife, Susan Grimes, who owns Sagaponack Sand and Gravel, were issued a total of 20 notices of violation, according to the DEC.

On December 6, the DEC said the three agreed to pay $50,000 to the DEC and $25,000 to East Hampton Town to support a shellfish restoration project. The remaining $55,000 will be forgiven if they agree to follow through with an agreement with the DEC that requires them to sample and remove piles of dredged spoil that has been stored near the marina and at another site in Bridgehampton.

Mr. and Ms. Grimes did not return phone calls placed to their Bridgehampton offices. Mr. Gibbs did not return an e-mail seeking comment. He could not be reached at his restaurant, which is closed for the winter.

The DEC charged Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Grimes with clearing sediment from the marina after a dredging permit held by Mr. Gibbs expired in 2009, and with going far beyond the bounds of the approved project.

Mr. Grimes illegally expanded a natural sandbar so one of his excavators could drive out into the marina and dredge the bottom, according to the DEC. The department also said the contractor created a diked area for dewatering the dredged sludge, and ran pipes that channeled water, rich with silt and sediment, back into Lake Montauk.

Those “antiquated and unpermitted” methods risked muddying the lake and preventing light from getting to plants like eelgrass that are vital to the health of the estuary, according to Jeremy Samuelson, an environmental advocate with the Group for the East End who originally reported the violations to the DEC. Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether or not the dredging stirred up any contaminants that were contained in the sediment, he said.

“There’s a distinction that has to be made here,” Mr. Samuelson said. “Routine legal maintenance dredging that ensures environmental protections has never been an issue for Group for the East End. Not at any point in our nearly 40-year history. What is an issue is when people knowingly violate both the letter and the spirit of the law and wreak such collateral damage and draw such public resources to pursue them in seeking justice that we all suffer.”

Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Grimes dumped the dredged spoil in protected tidal wetlands near the marina, in a pile that was visible from across the lake, according to Mr. Samuelson. Ms. Grimes was cited for storing more of the spoil, as well as construction and demolition debris from other projects, at the site of her Bridgehampton business without permits, according to the DEC.

Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Grimes continued to work at the marina in June, after the DEC ordered them to stop, according to the department.

Mr. Samuelson criticized East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson for failing to act on the violations, after the environmental advocate brought them to the supervisor’s attention in a meeting this spring.

“He was very aware of the ongoing work,” Mr. Samuelson said. “He actually had photos of it that he showed me. We discussed them at length and he made clear that it was his opinion that the violations that were ongoing on the property, to his way of thinking, were, in fact, not illegal. We obviously now know better.”

Mr. Wilkinson offered a different account, saying he passed the concerns along to Town Environmental Protection Director Larry Penny, who said he acted on them.

“I don’t know that to be true,” Mr. Wilkinson said of Mr. Samuelson’s account. “I know as soon as it was brought to my attention, I believe I shared it with Larry Penny. I also visited the site, and I was told the permits were in place.”

Mr. Penny said he called the DEC with news of the dredging project, but the department didn’t act until the Group for the East End filed a complaint shortly thereafter. Bill Fonda, a spokesman for the DEC, wrote in an e-mail this week that the Group for the East End was the first agency to report the violations.

In any case, Mr. Samuelson said he’s satisfied with the outcome of the case.

“I think it is an excellent decision,” he said. “It reassures the public that environmental regulations are being upheld, [as well as] other good-faith marine contractors that everyone has to operate within the bounds of the law, and levies significant enough fines to put a major sting in the operations of bad actors.”

A portion of the fines will be a welcome source of revenue for Town Bay Management Specialist Barley Dunne, who is in charge of the town’s annual efforts to seed its waters with shellfish.

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 9, 10 8:35 PM
Maybe ol' Grimey will think twice before ignoring the law and doing as he pleases.

As for calling the "Group for the East End" an environmental watchdog, that's like calling 27east's staff investigative journalists. Let's not get carried away here...
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 9, 10 9:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
"Maybe ol' Grimey will think twice before ignoring the law and doing as he pleases. "

Nah, he comes from a family who's from Nova Scotia and who arrived out in Montauk in the 30's.

Don't you know that the word on the street in Montauk is that these people were "here" before modern law so all the current laws do not apply to them (so they seem to think) ?

The rest of us who's ancestors trace back to the Mayflower unfortunately have to obey all the current laws.

Seems ...more
By Bilge Water (131), East Hampton on Dec 10, 10 5:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'm very curious why it took the Group for the East End to blow the whistle. It's strange that East Hampton being the "land of no" and paying Larry Penny nearly 150K per year didn't catch what was going on. Is it perhaps the Sup, foiled in his attempt to sell the fishing docks, had to find a way to pay a political debt? Did Mr. Penny forget his responsibility to the environment and just not drive down the road? Seems odd. Fact
By facts man (148), east hampton on Dec 10, 10 9:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
Isn't it because LP is a political hack ? He didn't forget his responsibility to the environment he just totally gave it up when he ran for office (as a Republican) about 10 years ago.

Does it come as any surprise his compensation package is $127K/yr ? For what ? What college did he go to ? Does anyone know ?

Word on the street is Larry's panties are all in twist over this one tho.

Got some egg on his face too

By Bilge Water (131), East Hampton on Dec 10, 10 1:22 PM
Larry makes $150+ when you add salary, benefits, pension contributions, and undeclared cash.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 11, 10 5:41 PM
"Larry makes $150+ when you add salary, benefits, pension contributions, and undeclared cash."

Word on the street is he's been working after hours choking chickens for the Colonel

By Bilge Water (131), Southampton on Dec 11, 10 11:10 PM
my remark was in error and uncalled for-I have tried to move it
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 12, 10 7:28 AM
The cost of benifits for E.H. Town employees is about 40%. To get the exact compensation for Penny all you need do is ask (its public info). Its about in the middle of 127 to 150 K so round it to the figure you want. In any case its alot of money for a person who hasn't done anything productive in years. The real question is why he wasn't fired by Wilk. and Quig. instead of valuable employees like Edna Steck. Yes I know she "chose" early retirement but "jump or be pushed" is not a choice. Fact
By facts man (148), east hampton on Dec 12, 10 1:51 PM
OK Marple you win! One thing I've learned in all my years is you can't argue with a delusional psycotic. Have a good life just remember if you ever need help your going to have to depend on Penny and not Edna Steck. Fact
By facts man (148), east hampton on Dec 12, 10 6:19 PM
Ha Ha, this is getting good

marple trying to back peddle

obviously a shill. i wouldn't want to be her after he comment about Ms. Steck. I personally saved the .html page in case it gets deleted.

stay tuned

good day msmarple, good day

By Bilge Water (131), Southampton on Dec 12, 10 6:58 PM
I had the pleasure of working in EH Town government with both Larry Penny and Edna Steck. Both spent their entire public careers preserving and protecting the town and the people in it. Natural resource and human resources. The place would be far poorer in both aspects had these two honest and caring individuals not served. Larry will be sorely missed when he goes. Edna already is. Most of us can't hold a candle to their records of accomplishment. So how about we get back on topic...?
By rss0246 (23), East Hampton on Dec 12, 10 9:12 PM
Grimes dug through my electric service when my house was being built, and dug through the one across the street from me twice. The man needs to get a new line of work - preferably in another state.
By Uniblab (24), Water Mill on Dec 15, 10 6:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
bilge water=eyeball from above.............btw, all our environmental laws, regulations, and enforcement take a hit when a project like this goes on and all they get is a slap on the wrist........their Town permit was totally violated yet where are the Town fines, Town enforcement, etc.? laughable, really...........its the wild (ea) west again
By earl (31), springs on Dec 20, 10 12:21 AM
1 member liked this comment