Riverboat tour plans stalled again  

MIKE LABELLA/Staff file photoFormer Assistant Harbormaster Tim Slavit’s tour boat approaches the Basiliere Bridge. Slavit’s plans to launch a river tour business in the city have been delayed over questions about where he can dock the boat. 

HAVERHILL — Plans by former Assistant Harbormaster Tim Slavit to launch a river tour business in the city have run into another delay.

Officials with MassWildlife said Slavit’s request to allow his tour boat to be moored offshore from the public boat ramp next to the Crescent Yacht Club in Bradford must be resubmitted now that his plans have changed.

Slavit said his new plan is to tie his 105-foot long, 400-passenger tour boat to the public floating docks behind The Tap restaurant on Washington Street.

He said that if needed, he would add on more docks and for additional safety, he is willing to donate concrete moorings to the city for his tour boat to tie onto during rough weather.

Slavit said the docks are public and were designed to accommodate his tour boat, which he named the MS Capt. Red in memory of his late father, William J. “Captain Red” Slavit, Haverhill’s longtime harbormaster who operated tour boats on the Merrimack River for years.

Tim Slavit was assistant harbormaster when his father was harbormaster.

Officials with the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said their review of Slavit’s original plan was needed to comply with Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) regulations as the river is home to two endangered species of sturgeon. 

Officials said this section of the Merrimack River is a habitat for the Atlantic Sturgeon and the Shortnose Sturgeon, both of which are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, the state’s Wetlands Protection Act and the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

In a three-page letter dated May 28 that was sent to Slavit, Everose Schluter, assistant director at Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Division of Fisheries ad Wildlife, said his application for a review was incomplete and that he needed to provide more details about his moorings.

State wildlife officials said that if Slavit’s plan has changed, he must submit his new plan for review.

City Conservation Commission member Ralph Basiliere, the spokesperson for the group, said that in addition to establishing jurisdiction and outlining concerns for the tour boat’s impact on the river, the letter from MassWildlife is a “pretty hefty push back.”

“Mr. Slavit will have to go through the process like everybody else,” Basiliere said. “The commission takes the (MassWildlife's) comments seriously and will enforce the Wetlands Protection Act — without fear or favor.”

Slavit said he has enlisted state Rep. Lenny Mirra to aid him in resolving issues with the city and with MassWildlife.

“I’ll do what Lenny tells me to do,” Slavit said. “I’d like to get this going immediately but we don’t need to apply for a review as the docks are there for a reason. I have paperwork saying the docks are made for a tour boat.”

Mirra said that Slavit, a constituent of his, asked him to help gain approval for a tour boat.

“I told him we would help with the approval process — which requires approvals from the state and various city departments — and I’m also working on this with the mayor (James Fiorentini) to help this get accomplished,” Mirra said. “Everyone I’ve spoken to wants to see a tour operating out of the docks behind The Tap.”

Officials with MassWildlife have also questioned Slavit about an incident in late March involving his tour boat, asking if an anchor was dragged along the riverbed during a “high-flow event.”

Slavit said his boat never drifted away from its mooring offshore from the public boat ramp in Bradford. According to Slavit, he and his sons drove the boat downstream, near the Groveland Bridge, and anchored it there.

“There was no anchor dragging,” Slavit said. “We were on board the entire time and we never broke loose.”

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