The City of Stamford Harbor Commission regulates and monitors Stamford Harbor waterfront development and encourages the retention of waterfront industries as well as recreational uses in all parts of Stamford Harbor. The Stamford Harbor Commission lists among its goals as maximizing public interest, support, and participation; encouraging and promoting viable water-dependent facilities and uses; promoting beneficial recreational uses; maintaining vital port facilities; conserving and enhancing natural resource conservation and development; and effectively planning and regulating waterfront land use.
The Stamford Harbor shoreline has a variety of industrial, commercial, residential, and recreational uses. Most of the city's waterfront industrial and commercial development is focused in the inner harbor.
Stamford Harbor is the fourth biggest commercial harbor in Connecticut after Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London. Tugs, scows, and barges are instrumental in moving products and materials in and out of Stamford Harbor. Today, there are six port facilities located in the inner Stamford Harbor and Stamford waterfront.
Stamford Harbor is also an important center for recreational boating in western Long Island Sound, and many facilities supporting recreational boating are located on the waterfront. These include docks, slips, moorings, and launch ramps as well as boat sales, repair, and storage facilities.
The City of Stamford operates facilities for public use that include marinas at Czescik, Cummings, and Cove Island parks. Privately-owned facilities include the city's remaining commercial boatyard, Brewer Yacht Haven West, one of the biggest marina facilities for pleasure craft in the northeastern United States. Other marinas have been developed as part of waterfront residential and commercial develops. There are also three private clubs that provide recreational boating service and facilities for their members and guests.
The Stamford Harbor inner harbor includes the west branch and east branch sub-management areas. They contain the highest concentration of water-dependent uses in the metropolitan area and are the most intensively-developed portion of the city's coastal area. The inner harbor is near the city's central business district at the hub of three major transportation modes (highway, rail, and water).
Stamford Harbor port facilities in the inner harbor provide most of the concrete and asphalt products used in southwestern Connecticut, and they include a major fuel oil distribution terminal. Since the inner harbor channels are also used by a variety of recreational vessels, there is a significant mix of water-dependent activity in that area.
Historically, the Stamford Harbor west branch was a center for the distribution of coal in the city and for shipbuilding. It was also the terminus for steamship services to New York. Today, O&G Industries receives shipments of sand and gravel there in barges for its concrete and asphalt plants. O&G also permits commercial fishermen to use their docking facilities. O&G Industries also operates two port facilities on the east branch of the inner Stamford Harbor. Also on the west branch of the inner Stamford Harbor, the Sprague Energy Terminal receives fuel oil that is pumped into storage tanks for distribution throughout the region.
Stamford Harbor port facilities include O&G Industries' masonry supply yard and the city's waste transfer station, incinerator, and wastewater treatment plant. Other port facilities include Rubino Brothers' scrap metal facility, the Stamford Iron and Metal facility, and O&G Industries' primary Stamford Harbor asphalt plant.
The Stamford Harbor outer harbor is bisected by the entrance channel that connects Long Island Sound and the inner harbor. About one-and-a-half kilometers long, the channel extends from the open waters of the outer harbor to the point where it splits into the west and east branch channels. The entrance channel is marked by navigation aids that the US Coast Guard maintains.
The entrance channel is about 61 meters wide over its length and has a depth of about 5.5 meters from its beginning in the Sound to the northern edge of the outer harbor anchorage basin. Depth to the junction of the east and west branch channels is about 4.6 meters. Covering about 7.7 hectares, the anchorage basin is about 183 meters wide and has a depth of about 5.5 meters.
Breakwaters protect the outer harbor from waves in the Sound. The west breakwater extends for about 884 meters, and the east breakwater is about 366 meters long. Lighted navigation aids mark the entrance to the outer harbor. The 1881 Stamford lighthouse is just south of the west breakwater and also marks the outer harbor entrance.
The smallest and westernmost harbor management sub-area is Dolphin Cove. Its primary uses are recreational boating and swimming from private beaches. There are also many private docks and waterfront homes. There are no commercial or industrial water uses in Stamford Harbor's Dolphin Cove.