News Notes – Long Island Sound - Soundings Online

News Notes – Long Island Sound

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State closes Conn. River anchorage for eagles

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection announced the emergency closure of Nott Island, a popular anchorage on the Connecticut River in Lyme, until at least mid-June to protect bald eagles during their nesting period.

“This closure is necessary to prevent people from disturbing endangered nesting bald eagles at this island,” says DEP commissioner Gina McCarthy. “Bald eagles are very susceptible to human disturbance during this time. This location receives a tremendous amount of use by the boating public in the spring and summer, which is the period when eagles are nesting.”

The island is posted with signs that read, “Eagle Nesting Area — No Access Beyond This Point.”

The signs state that the area is closed until July 15, but DEP officials say they anticipate the eagle chicks will fledge (reach flying stage) around June 20, after which the signs will be removed and the island will be opened to boaters.

Bald eagles are protected by federal law, and by a new state law, CGS 26-93, that states “any person who enters a posted no-access area for a bald eagle nest shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than 30 days, or both.”

“Bald eagle nesting in Connecticut is still a rare occurrence,” said Julie Victoria, a DEP Wildlife Division Biologist. “Human disturbance at this site can cause the nests to fail.”

DEP Environmental Conservation Police Officers will reportedly be patrolling the island, particularly on weekends and after dark. Anyone caught trespassing on the island will be arrested, the DEP warns. Landing of watercraft is prohibited. The public can report any observed violations at (800) 842-4357.

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Yacht club members vow to rebuild on City Island

A four-alarm blaze ravaged New York’s historic Morris Yacht and Boat Club, overlooking Long Island Sound from a 5-acre park on the southern tip of City Island.

“It was an older wooden structure, so the fire spread rapidly through the building,” says New York Fire Department spokesperson Jim Long.

The fire was reported at about 1:30 a.m. March 10. It took 170 firefighters nearly four hours to extinguish the flames. Ten fire fighters and one civilian suffered minor injuries while fighting the blaze, Long says. The club was closed at the time of the fire.

“We’re gonna have to rebuild. It’s too dear a property to let go,” Joe Kramer, a 20-year club member, told New York’s Daily News when asked whether the property would be converted to luxury waterfront condos. “They’re gonna have to drag us out.”

The 155-year-old Morris Yacht and Boat Club, a three-story Victorian white wood frame building, was built by schooner shipping magnate Stephen Decatur Horton, the Daily News report reports. William Randolph Hearst also once owned the building. The club was established there several years later.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, says Long. As of mid-April fire marshals were still investigating the incident.

— Jason Fell

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No N.Y. canal tolls for pleasure boaters

The state of New York, hoping to boost recreational boat traffic on its canal system, has suspended tolls for pleasure boaters this season.

The New York State Canal Corp. typically issues two-day and 10-day recreational boater passes, ranging from $5 to $100, based on the size of the vessel.

The fees have been collected since 1994. Last year they generated about $230,000 for the state, according to local news reports. The revenue loss this year will be offset by a $200,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The one-year pilot project to waive the tolls at the locks could be extended, says Gov. George Pataki. The governor, in recent years, has strived to improve the canal system, which he says can provide economic benefits for communities along the waterways.

The canal system also will have extended hours. Summer hours (May 15 to Sept. 15) are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fall hours, until Nov. 15, are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The canal system comprises four waterways: the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca canals. It spans 524 miles across the state, and links the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, Finger Lakes and Niagara River. The canals are run by the New York State Thruway Authority.

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Sailing school opens New York campus

Offshore Sailing School has opened its newest metro location at the New York Maritime College at Fort Schuyler. Located on a 55-acre waterfront property on the Throggs Neck peninsula where the East River meets Long Island Sound, the campus offers sailing opportunities on Long Island Sound, not far from midtown Manhattan and outer borough communities.

Courses offered here include Learn to Sail, Performance Sailing and Live Aboard Cruising. All include US Sailing or Offshore certification.

SUNY Maritime is Offshore’s third campus in the New York metro area. Sister locations include Chelsea Piers in Manhattan and Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City. All three campuses are open mid-April through October.

A bonus for graduates is the Offshore Sailing Club, providing unlimited sailing on the school’s Colgate 26 fleet. Club Headquarters are at the Liberty Landing Campus, where numerous special events, social activities, flotilla cruises and clinics are scheduled throughout the season.

For more information, contact Offshore Sailing School at (800) 221-4326 or visit the school’s Web site at

www.offshore-sailing.com .

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June 17 return for Hudson River poker run

The New York City Powerboat Poker Run 2006 will take place on the Hudson River on June 17, beginning at noon.

This year the annual event will feature more than 175 mostly performance powerboats in what has grown to be one of the largest boating events in America, according to its organizers. The fleet of Cigarettes, Outerlimits, Formulas and Fountains will again race up to the Tappan Zee Bridge, picking up playing cards at stops along the way in what is more of a festival than a race.

The National Powerboat Association organizes the event, which is headquartered at Liberty Landing Marina in Liberty State Park, in Jersey City, N.J.

For information, call (203) 532-1312 or e-mail Billy Frenz at billy@nationalpowerboat.com.

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Conn. aquarium receives its largest individual gift

This spring the Maritime Aquarium announced that the Norwalk, Conn., facility had received a million-dollar gift, the largest in its history, from William Ziegler III of Darien, Conn.

The donation will be used to establish an endowment that supports The Maritime Aquarium’s education programs and facilities.

Ziegler is the longest-serving trustee of the Maritime Aquarium, having been elected to the board in July 1981. He recently founded Sargent’s Cove, an aquaculture company dedicated to raising indigenous oysters that provide a natural filtration system for the Sound. A longtime sailor, Ziegler says he has a strong interest in the ecology of Long Island Sound and in sharing his passion for the Sound with others. www.maritimeaquarium.org

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Marine towing service adds Connecticut port

BoatU.S. Towing Services has opened up six new ports across the country and upgraded a seventh to full-time status, listing a total of 263 nationwide.

Locally, the new port is in southeastern Connecticut. TowBoatU.S. New London is located in Pine Island Bay and is the second port for Capt. Don Rich, who also operates TowBoatU.S. Mystic. www.towboatus.com

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New Web camera shows nesting ospreys

There is a nesting pair of ospreys (also known as fish hawks because of their diet) that return to the same nest on the same light pole at the Calf Pasture Beach ballfield in Norwalk, Conn., every year.

This year the ospreys will have a new neighbor — a video camera broadcasting their nesting activities over the Internet from The Maritime Aquarium’s Web site, www.maritimeaquarium.org .

Once listed as a threatened species in Connecticut, the osprey population has been making a comeback since bans imposed on DDT, which weakened their egg shells and caused many eggs to fail. Now new osprey nests are spotted annually in coastal areas all along the Connecticut shoreline.

From November through April the Maritime Aquarium also maintains a Web cam in the lantern room of the Sheffield Island Lighthouse off the coast of Norwalk that keeps tabs on the area’s seasonal seal population.