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Westport storm recovery update: DPW hits the road; rules on dock, seawall repairs

Published 4:28 pm, Friday, November 9, 2012
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The Department of Public Works has initiated its campaign to clean up debris left in the wake of the two storms that hit town over the last two weeks.

Public Works Director Stephen Edwards said Friday the DPW has begun removing debris littering the rights-of-way along local roads.

Trees and other debris that fell onto private property, however, are the responsibility of the owner.

"Public works will make a single pass through the town to pick up the storm debris which may take up to two weeks," Edwards said in a statement. "Your patience during this trying time is appreciated."

To assist residents with their own cleanups, Edwards also said the fee for residents to drop off yard waste at the town's facilities at 180 Bayberry Lane will be waived through Saturday, Nov. 17. That fee, however, will not be waived for commercial haulers.

Hours of operation at the Westport yard waste center have been extended to 3 p.m. through Dec. 1.

Meanwhile town officials have issued the procedures for people to follow to replace docks or seawalls damaged or destroyed during the storms.

In a joint statement, Conservation Director Alicia Mozian and Town Engineer Peter Ratkiewich said the rules apply to properties located within the jurisdiction of the Waterway Protection Line Ordinance (WPLO) and will remain in effect until Aug. 1.

Docks that have already been approved pursuant to the WPLO may be repaired in-kind and in-place with issuance of an administrative approval from the Conservation Department staff, they said. An existing-conditions survey or similar drawing showing the dimensions of the dock is required. If applicable, proof that the dock existed prior to 1980 is also helpful as that is the date of the adoption of the WPLO.

Most docks in Westport also received authorization from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Repairs to docks already issued DEEP permits are authorized under the General Permit for Dock Reconstruction. This general permit applies to the repair or replacement of previously existing and authorized commercial or residential docks, and must be reconstructed in compliance with the prior authorization within one year of the day of the damage.

Dock owners must register with DEEP, file a start-work notification prior to construction, and obtain a compliance certification upon completion of the construction. Residents should contact the DEEP Office of Long Island Sound Programs at 1-860-424-3034.

Property owners who have seawalls that were damaged should follow a procedure. Where properties fall within the jurisdiction of the WPLO, seawalls may be repaired or replaced to the height that existed before the storms through an administrative approval issued by the Conservation Department. A survey or similar drawing that demonstrates the height of the wall must be submitted as part of the application process. A copy of the original WPLO approval or proof of its existence prior to 1980 is also encouraged.

Similarly, most seawalls in Westport have been approved by DEEP. That agency's General Permit for Minor Seawall Repair allows for work on existing authorized or legally installed seawalls. Permitted repairs include patching concrete, re-pointing mortar between stone, resetting fallen stones, and applying a skim coat to the face of the seawall. This authorization expires Jan. 28, 2013. A copy of the original DEEP permit is also encouraged.

More substantial repairs are also allowed by DEEP for seawalls that have a permit, were installed prior to Jan. 1, 1995, or protect infrastructure or a residence in existence before Jan. 1, 1995. This allows for placement of rip-rap on slopes behind existing, damaged seawalls and repair or rebuilding to the pre-existing condition of seawalls, bulkheads and rip-rap revetments that have been previously authorized.

DEEP is requiring property owners apply retroactively for a Certificate of Permission within 30 days of April 30, 2013, to retain or continue repair work.

The Conservation Department's policy change to allow for issuance of administrative approval pursuant to the WPLO remains in effect until Aug. 1, 2013. It does not eliminate the need to seek authorization from the Planning and Zoning Department.

Owners uncertain whether their property falls within the boundary of the Waterway Protection Line Ordinance should contact the Conservation Department at 203-341-1170.