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Vessel mooring fees are sought for Groton side of Mystic River

Groton - The Mystic River harbormaster wants Groton to charge an annual mooring fee for commercial and private vessels on the Groton side of the river.

Even though the river runs between Stonington and Groton, Stonington charges a mooring fee of $50 while Groton charges nothing, Harbormaster Paul C. Watts wrote to Groton Town Manager Mark Oefinger.

"That suggests that the Groton side will now become much more attractive to current and prospective mooring permittees as it's probably the 'world's biggest bargain,' " Watts wrote. "Unfortunately, as harbormaster, I have little or no room to place new moorings as nature just isn't making any more river, but people continue to buy more and larger boats."

The town council asked Oefinger to invite Watts to speak to them about his concerns.

About 100 people are on a waiting list for a moorings on the river, Watts said during a telephone interview Monday.

"Some of these people have been waiting 10 years to get a mooring because it's a great place to have a boat," Watts said. Some current mooring owners no longer own boats or have moved, he said, but there's no incentive for them to give up their moorings.

"They don't want to," he said. "Now legally, they can pass it on to a blood relative. So if someone passes on, they could pass it on to their wife or children."

To renew a mooring, the owner must simply mail back the annual renewal form, Watts wrote to the council. If owners paid a fee, they might think twice about keeping something they don't use, he added.

As harbormaster of the Mystic River, Watts oversees the Mystic River on both sides, except for the Groton side off Noank.

James Giblin, the Noank harbormaster, has jurisdiction over that area.

Watts said money from permit fees could be placed in a town fund used exclusively to maintain and improve the Mystic River, and support jobs like pumping sewage out of boats and removing derelict vessels, or those that break loose from their moorings and sink.

Town Councilor Genevieve Cerf, who lives in Groton Long Point, said that community had a long waiting list for moorings and made its fees more competitive.

"We were charging a ridiculously low (fee), and we brought it up substantially and suddenly the list started freeing up a bit," she said.

For years, Stonington charged a fee of $10 per year for mooring along its side of the Mystic River. The fee was raised to $50 on Jan. 1.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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