Waterford moves forward with demolishing abandoned marina
By: Sten Spinella
Waterford — Two abandoned docks adjacent to the condominiums on Scotch Cap Road are set to be demolished.
On Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen approved a bid from Mohawk Northeast, a construction company, to conduct the dock removals. The project represents a partnership between the state, the town and the Navy. The Navy has long wanted the remnants of the abandoned marina just past the train tracks to go because it's across from the piers where submarines dock at the base.
"We're going to start home-porting the new Virginia Class submarines at the submarine base," executive director at the state Office of Military Affairs Bob Ross said Thursday. "These are the Block V submarines that are about 80 feet longer than the previous submarines. When we want to homeport those in Groton, we have to have room to maneuver them, so the submarine base is going to have to create a larger turning basin for these submarines. And that derelict dock, marina, is in the way. That marina has never been used. It was built, but never used, so we'll be very happy to get it out of the way as a hazard to navigation."
Town Planner Abby Piersall said the docks are a part of what was going to be a sort of riverfront yacht club. That never came to fruition, as the funding ran out. In recent years there was a separation of the parcels with the condos further inland. The town foreclosed on the property due to tax delinquencies.
Piersall said the Navy reached out to Waterford about the docks even before the town took control of the property in 2018.
The state gave Waterford $525,000 in 2018 to cover the costs of the project and the back taxes that were owed on the property by the previous owners. After going out to bid to handle the project, the town found out that state money wasn't going to be enough for the prices contractors were offering.
"We worked with the state, the Navy, to modify the project scope in order to make it work with our budget," Piersall said. "The change to the project was whether we would still remove the hellicle anchors that were buried into the mud, or if we would just remove all cables and the dock system above the mudline. We're basically taking out everything above the mudline."
Ross said this type of initiative isn't uncommon, and that the Navy has a long history of collaboration with surrounding towns, including multiple projects working with municipalities around the base to resolve problems facing the Navy.
"We helped the town of Ledyard buy land on the north end of the base, outside the fence line, to make sure it doesn't get developed in a way that's incompatible with the Navy," Ross said. "We helped the town of Groton do the same thing on the south end. This is kind of the same project — we're trying to deal with encroachment mitigation, to stop encroachment that's going to interfere with the Navy operations."
Ross said he hoped the project would be complete before the year's up. Piersall didn't have an estimate for completion, but she said the town would like this to be a speedy process as well. Ross noted that the first Block V submarines are anticipated to arrive at the base in 2025.
"I think in comparison to most public sector-private sector interactions, this moved pretty quickly," Ross said. "The town of Waterford and former First Selectman Dan Steward deserve a lot of credit for recognizing how important this was and then moving it efficiently through their municipal government and process."
The condos near the docks are situated up the hill on the Thames River. The docks are at the base of that hill, and people have to cross railroad tracks to reach the land where the docks are. The town is considering what to do with the slice of land with the docks it owns. Piersall said the property only allows for passive recreation, so in terms of possible future uses, it's either recreation or conservation.
"There have been very preliminary discussions on our ability to open that up safely to the public," Piersall said. "One of the big things we have to work out is access over the railroad tracks. That is something the town will continue to have discussions about, but that'll be the primary piece — safe pedestrian access over those tracks. Anytime publicly owned coastal property is part of the conversation, generally speaking, the goal is for us to open it up to folks as soon as we're able."
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