03/25/11 4:02pm
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO Surf fisherman at Iron Pier Beach on the Sound.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Surf fisherman at Iron Pier Beach on the Sound.

The New York State Legislature will repeal a saltwater fishing license enacted in 2009 and successfully fought in court by East End towns.

New York State assemblymen Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor and Dan Losquadro of Shoreham reported Thursday that an agreement had been reached during state budget negotiations to repeal the license and instead establish a registration requirement to meet a federal mandate to track certain species of fish.

According to the budget agreement, the registration will be guaranteed to be free for the next two years, and those who already purchased lifetime licenses will be granted a refund minus the fee for the past year.

To officially repeal the state license, the agreement must be ratified within the 2011-2012 state budget, which is expected to be approved by April 1.

The recreational marine fishing license was established as part of the 2009 state budget, and was set to be implemented by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on October 1, 2009. The day before enactment, the Town of Shelter Island joined Southampton and East Hampton towns in obtaining a State Supreme Court stay against the enforcement of the law; they later won an injunction.

Southold, Brookhaven, Huntington and Oyster Bay joined the original three towns on the suit, charging that the law establishing the license violated their control of local waters and their residents’ colonial patent rights to fish them. In December 2010, Judge Patrick A. Sweeney ruled in favor of the towns, supporting their patent rights and finding that a federal law requiring a registry of fishing data did not justify a fee-based license. The licenses cost $10 per year for all anglers age 16 or older.

The DEC filed an appeal of the ruling, which is pending in state court, according to Shelter Island Town Attorney Laury Dowd. She said Friday that in light of anticipated legislative action abolishing the license, the DEC commissioner may decide to drop the appeal.

Mr. Thiele supported the East End towns’ legal fight and also attempted to repeal the license during past legislative sessions. “The idea of a saltwater fishing license was ill-conceived from the outset,” He said in a press release. “Not only was it a tax on one of the fundamental rights that Long Island residents have had since colonial times, but it was a burden to the recreational fishing industry at a time when the recession was taking its toll on the local economy.”

“The saltwater-fishing fee targeted the livelihood of Long Island’s sport fishermen and had a negative impact on our region’s tourism industry,” stated Mr. Losquadro. “I am pleased that this regionally biased fee is being terminated and that those individuals who purchased lifetime marine licenses will be refunded.”

12/16/10 1:35pm

RANDEE DADDONA FILE PHOTO | Fishermen at Breakwater Beach in Mattituck.

A New York State marine fishing license was shot down in state court Tuesday, a victory for seven Long Island towns that challenged it.

State Supreme Court Judge Patrick A. Sweeney ruled that the state law requiring a fishing license for recreational saltwater anglers “is in violation of the rights of the people of the respective towns and may not be enforced upon those who seek to fish in the waters regulated by the respective towns.”

Shelter Island, East Hampton and Southampton fought enforcement of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) license from its Oct. 1, 2009 enactment, filing suit and winning an immediate stay and later an injunction against the license, which costs $10 annually and is required of all saltwater anglers 16 and older. Later the towns of Southold, Brookhaven, Huntington and Oyster Bay joined the suit.

The court rejected the state’s defenses: that it has sole jurisdiction to regulate fishing and that the saltwater license was necessary to collect statistical data per federal requirements. The 2006 reauthorization of the Magnusen-Stevens Act mandated the establishment of a federal registry of recreational fisherman angling for certain species. States with their own programs are exempt from the federal registry, which is authorized to go into effect Jan. 1.

“The towns do not challenge the state’s right to enact regulations” such as the size of fish caught or number kept, Judge Sweeney determined. “However, in this case the state is not attempting to regulate fishing but is seeking only to collect statistical data,” and a license is not necessary to do that.

“The federal government does not require individuals to be licensed,” Judge Sweeney noted, “only that each state provide certain identifying information.”

Judge Sweeney also rejected the state’s argument that its license would be less costly than the federal registry: “The rationale advanced by the state that it may issue a saltwater fishing license to apparently save the taxpayers from a federal registry fee, which may be higher than the state would charge, is not sufficient reason to interfere with the jurisdiction of the respective towns.”

The implications of the ruling may reach beyond the towns. Judge Sweeney also decided that the state exceeded the limits of the federal mandate by requiring a license for all migratory fish; the federal registry requires information on “anadromous” fish only, those that spawn in fresh water but live in saltwater such as striped bass, white perch and Atlantic salmon. Of the fishing license law, the judge wrote, “Clearly the statute went beyond the state’s jurisdiction … by including fishing which was not mandatory or contemplated by the federal registry.”

“It’s a good opinion,” Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty said after the ruling. “I’m deeply gratified that Judge Sweeney upheld the towns’ rights under our colonial patents.”

The matter is already on appeal, Mr. Dougherty said, adding, “Obviously, the DEC is taking this very seriously.”

c.loriz@sireporter.com

06/10/10 12:00am

A solidarity movement is afoot on eastern Long Island to demand a change in new helicopter regulations recently proposed by the federal government.

Officials from the East End found a unified voice when they met at East Hampton Town Hall last week, only days after the Federal Aviation Administration had filed notice that it would regulate helicopters flying from New York City to the Hamptons. The new rules, they complained, would do nothing to solve noise problems on eastern Long Island.

The regulations would make the New York-North Shore Route, an established air traffic corridor, a mandatory offshore pathway for helicopters, requiring them to fly one mile seaward of the shoreline at an altitude of 2,500 feet.

Although the proposed rules were touted as a victory in the battle against helicopter noise over Long Island when Senator Charles Schumer announced them May 24, they would not alter current air traffic patterns over the East End and Brookhaven.

The new rules would allow pilots to veer south off the pathway over the Sound in order to reach their destinations. That means helicopters could continue to cross land on their way to East Hampton Airport, Gabreski Airport in Westhampton and the Dune Road helipad in Southampton.

The East Hampton meeting, which was not open to the press, included officials from Southold, Riverhead, Southampton and East Hampton, two Shelter Island residents and representatives of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tim Bishop.

“What was really great was that we all pretty much agreed about the core issues,” said John La Sala of Shelter Island.

Those points of agreement will be the basis of a joint petition to change the proposed rules, to be filed within the federal government’s 30-day comment period, which expires June 25. The petition would point out that the proposed rules would not restrict the paths helicopters take now to their Hamptons destinations. Approximately 70 percent of eastbound helicopter traffic from Manhattan heads to East Hampton Airport, officials told participants at Tuesday’s meeting. Those flights cross the North Shore at some point.

The officials listed the following areas of agreement:

* Traffic should be divided equally between North Shore and South Shore routes. The South Shore route is similar to the north corridor; traffic there could also be restricted to one mile seaward of the shoreline and then transit to Hamptons airports from the Atlantic Ocean.

* East Hampton-bound traffic on the North Shore route must stay on that route past Orient Point and Plum Island. Unanimous agreement was not reached on the exact path south to East Hampton, but it would be primarily over water. Traffic to Gabreski would fly over the pine barrens.

* Airspace issues at JFK should be explored for access from Manhattan to the South Shore route. Pilots working out of JFK have stated that helicopters can pass through JFK airspace without conflict at altitudes below commercial traffic.

* The minimum cruising altitude for helicopters should be increased from 2,500 feet to 3,000 feet.

Joseph Fischetti, a pilot who represented Southold Town, called the outcome “a good first step,” but added that no change is likely for this summer season.

The problem won’t be solved unless the FAA requires pilots to avoid flying over land as much as possible, he said. At present, helicopters can leave that airspace and turn inland at any point.

“What are they giving up? They’re giving us nothing,” Mr. Fischetti said of the FAA. “It’s not elimination, it’s mitigation. Three or four helicopters an hour is not a problem. But 20 helicopters an hour is a problem.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter agreed the solution lies in prohibiting helicopters from flying over land except when they’re on final approach.

“We can’t allow three or four commercial carriers to put an undue burden on East End residents,” the supervisor said. “Riverhead doesn’t want to be burdened by East Hampton’s helicopter traffic. All the FAA has to do is set the flight path, that’s it.”

Mr. Walter strenuously objected to diverting air traffic over the pine barrens. There is no way for the helicopters to take that path without crossing populated areas, he said

Participants also discussed giving East Hampton Airport, which has no control tower, more power to direct air traffic in order to mitigate noise.

Last year, airport manager Jim Brundige said he preferred to divide incoming helicopters so that half would approach from the south and half from the north to spread out the noise burden. Currently 85 percent take the northern approach over South Ferry. The southern approach directs choppers flying along the Atlantic Ocean to turn inland and limit their overland portion to just two miles. That path takes them over upscale homes on Georgica Pond.

“No one had any patience with the helicopters,” Mr. La Sala said. “There was a lot of good humor in this meeting at the other side’s expense.”

The issue was to be on the agenda for the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association meeting in Southampton yesterday (Wednesday).

Tim Kelly contributed to this story.

05/28/10 12:00am

Questions, concerns and frustration
have prompted federal representatives to call for a meeting to hear
from East Enders on the Federal Aviation Administration’s proposed
rules for helicopters flying over Long Island.

Gerry Petrella,
who runs Senator Charles Schumer’s Long Island office, has called for a
meeting at East Hampton Town Hall at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The FAA
posted its proposed rules on Wednesday, which were expected to mandate
routes from Manhattan to East Hampton Airport and Gabreski Field. But
the proposed regulations only mandate a 2,500 foot altitude and travel
on the “North Shore Route,” an established flight path one mile off the
North Shore from the New York City area to Orient Point. It says
nothing about how the helicopters will get from that route to the
airports near the South Shore.

The FAA is accepting comments on
the proposed rules, and one outcome of Tuesday’s meeting may be filing
a joint proposal to strengthen the new regulations with regard to
helicopter traffic over the East End.

The rules are posted at
regulations.justia.com/view/176708. Instructions on the many options to
submit comments, which are due by June 25, 2010, are listed there.

Comments can be seen or posted at regulations.gov. Search for rule FAA-2010-0302.

05/27/10 12:00am

The battle against helicopter noise over the East End may be over. Or not.

For the first time, the federal government will regulate helicopter flight paths over Long Island, Senator Charles Schumer announced Thursday, and a proposed path, as depicted in Newsday, sends them from Long Island Sound, turning south at Shoreham and bypassing the northern East End entirely.

But that map is not accurate, county Legislator Ed Romaine told Times/Review Newspapers Friday, and exactly where the choppers will cross over Long Island to reach the Hamptons is not set in stone.

According to Mr. Schumer, the Federal Aviation Administration will be filing proposed regulations mandating helicopter traffic in and out of New York City to fly one mile seaward of the North Shore and maintain an altitude of 2,500 feet. When crossing over Long Island, pilots will maintain the 2,500-foot altitude but will vary their path by time and day and fly over “least populated areas,” Mr. Romaine said Friday.

Mr. Schumer said a notice of proposed rulemaking would be filed by the FAA on Monday, May 24, but a record of the notice could not be found on federal websites prior to presstime. Once they are posted, a 30-day comment period will open. The rules are expected to go into effect before the busy July 4 weekend.

“I think this is a tremendous first step,” Mr. Romaine said. “But I want to make sure it is enough of a step.” He will be monitoring the situation once the rules are in place to see just where helicopters cross over land.

In 2008, a voluntary path brokered by Mr. Schumer sent 85 to 90 percent of helicopters bound to East Hampton Airport over Shelter Island and the North Fork. Residents previously unaffected by helicopter noise began complaining and called for a different route or higher minimum altitudes. The FAA was asked to address the situation but federal officials said they could not regulate helicopter traffic over Long Island. That has changed.

“I want to thank Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop, who were both instrumental in pushing for new regulations at the federal level, and FAA Administrator Babbitt for recognizing the need for these new regulations,” said Mr. Romaine.

“This is tremendously encouraging news after a long slog but let’s remain vigilant,” Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty said last week. He thanked an island contingent working to redirect helicopters away from Shelter Island spearheaded by resident Kenneth Winston.

Like Mr. Romaine, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he is cautiously optimistic. “I’ll wait to decide if it’s good news when the phone slows down.” The volume of complaints about helicopter noise phoned and e-mailed to the Town of Southold is lower this year relative to the prior two, he said.

c.loriz@sireporter.com