That’s approximately how many years South Ferry’s Cliff Clark has been warning New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials that if South Ferry landings didn’t get dredged, there would come a day when boats would be stranded, unable to deliver vehicles and foot passengers to either Shelter Island or North Haven.Storms like 2012’s Sandy have resulted in shoaling that already has boats sometimes dragging bottom when winds from the west pick up, Mr. Clark said.

But he’s finally looking ahead to the dredging project  in November.

To prepare for that, Verizon and Cablevision power lines have to moved to ensure  they won’t be cut when the dredging occurs. That’s why traffic from both Shelter Island and North Haven has backed up on occasion and routing around construction equipment has been ongoing the past few weeks.

Workers from Danella Construction and Carson Corporation have been on the job with South Ferry personnel carrying out the intial stages of the the project.

The employees have been working 12-hour days, foul and fierce weather notwithstanding.

“This is what they do,” Danella Construction project manager Joe Gogno said. “These guys are a different breed.”

The process that will likely last another two weeks has involved creating a channel across 2,280 feet of water 6 feet under the floor of Shelter Island Sound.

Islanders may be somewhat familiar with the process that was similar, if not as long, as the ill-fated effort by LIPA contractor Bortech made last summer  to boar through soil and rock to create a tunnel for piping to  house fiber optic cables for the utilities.

To achieve this end, the workers have had to combine their various expert abilities with one another.

They’ve encountered some hard spots tunneling through to the Shelter Island side, according to engineer Robby Smith. But they came within less than two feet of their target to bring the drill ashore on Shelter Island just along the grassy area in front of the office.

He and Michael Gill work side by side hunched over computers in a central command trailer they call a “steering cabinet.” Mr. Gill  determines the right coordinates in an exacting process so that Mr. Smith can then gently move levers that guide the actual drill with a 10-foot head through from North Haven to Shelter Island. The cost of the steering cabinet from which the drilling is directed costs $250,000, according to Mr. Gogno.

JULIE LANE PHOTO Start of the boring hole at North Haven where drilling began to create a tunnel for piping to accommodate new utility lines.

second drilling pic for web

Mr. Gill spent eight months in training learning his job. He travels the world on various projects, including Europe, Australia and throughout the United States. He recalled one project where he had to route the drill with a high powered gas line on one side and a major water line on the other with only two feet of space in between. A minor mistake on his end in plotting the route could have meant a major accident, but success was with him.

Still, he said, he’s still learning and every day, every project is a new experience.

Ask any of the workers whose job is the toughest and the response tends to be the same — the flagmen who have to guide traffic, standing on their feet for 12 hours at a stretch with no relief from bad weather.

Winds, mud splashing and other elements are brutal, Mr. Smith said.

On Tuesday, the men from the various crews paused for lunch catered by Vue and provided by South Ferry management.

Mr. Clark, in a short prayer he offered before the men chowed down on sandwiches, salads and cookies, thanked them for all of their cooperation with one another and with his staff. He even praising the crews’ families for raising such hard working and dedicated young men who could carry out the project with skill and professionalism.

“My crew has been thrilled” working with the other crews to help keep traffic flowing on and off South Ferry boats with as little disruption as possible, Mr. Clark said.

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