09/17/14 3:09pm
09/17/2014 3:09 PM
The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

County legislators voted overwhelmingly last week to let Suffolk voters decide the fate of a plan that would eventually replenish the Drinking Water Protection Program, which has so far been tapped twice for money to balance the county budget. If approved by voters, the plan would also allow the county to continue dipping into that program for several more years.  (more…)

08/31/14 8:00am
08/31/2014 8:00 AM
The airbase was established in 1946 and is currently used by a few area pilots. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The airbase was established in 1946 and is currently used by a few area pilots. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed removing Mattituck Airbase from New York’s Superfund program, saying the property no longer poses a threat to public health or the environment, DEC officials said.

Before it makes a final determination, the DEC will accept public comment for the next month. The property is currently on the state’s Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site list, which identifies properties being investigated for potential hazardous waste and outlines any cleanup efforts taking place.

The airbase, located off New Suffolk Avenue in Mattituck, is one of 11 properties currently being investigated across Riverhead and Southold towns.

It was created in 1946, when Parker Wickham of Mattituck, who overhauled airplane engines during World War II, converted part of his family’s New Suffolk Avenue potato farm into a small airport and plane engine rebuilding shop under the name Mattituck Services, according to previous Suffolk Times coverage. The property is still owned by the Wickham family.

The site currently operates as an “informal airbase used by a few area pilots,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell.

The 12-acre site included a half-acre parcel where chemicals — including fuels, oils and cleaners — were once used for maintenance and repair work, according to state DEC officials.

According to the state agency’s listing, solvent rinses and wastewater used on the property were discharged to leaching pools in the area from 1946 to 1979, leaving elevated levels of copper, iron, nickel, zinc, lead and cadmium in nearby soils, as well as several pesticide ingredients.

To remedy the pollution, 25 tons of contaminated but non-hazardous soils were excavated from the area surrounding the leaching pools in 1997, with excavation extending at least three feet below the water table, the DEC listing states. The area was then packed with clean fill and closed.

Soil testing conducted in November 2013 found no lingering impact from the contaminants in question and it was determined that no public or environmental threats exist at the site, according to DEC officials.

Mr. Russell said he’s encouraged to hear that the historic site stands to be removed from the Superfund program.

“If the DEC is satisfied, naturally we are,” he said. “Certainly it is in the town’s interest to see all [of these areas] get remediated and delisted.”

Agency officials are asking that any public comments regarding Mattituck Airbase be mailed to Cynthia Whitfield, project manager, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Remediation, Remedial Bureau A, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7015 or emailed to cynthia.whitfield@dec.ny.gov. You can also call 518-402-9564.

The comment period will close Oct. 5 and a final decision will be made on or after Oct. 26, according to the DEC release.

cmiller@timesreview.com

08/23/14 3:00pm
08/23/2014 3:00 PM
Rust tide caused by Cochlodinium in Peconic Estuary in 2012. (Credit: Bill Portlock)

Rust tide caused by Cochlodinium in Peconic Estuary in 2012. (Credit: Bill Portlock)

If you’re a resident in one of the five eastern towns surrounding the Peconic Estuary, the nonprofit Peconic Green Growth wants to hear from you to better understand area wastewater practices. (more…)

08/22/14 11:00am
08/22/2014 11:00 AM
Rust tide caused by Cochlodinium in Peconic Estuary in 2012. (Credit: Bill Portlock)

Rust tide caused by Cochlodinium in Peconic Estuary in 2012. (Credit: Bill Portlock)

It’s a well-known story around these parts: One summer, around the mid-1980s, an explosion of harmful algae began to appear, sucking oxygen out of bay waters causing a die-off of eelgrass, shellfish and even finfish.

For the past few decades, the seasonal story has been on repeat — not only here, but in other states along the East Coast. It’s the result of nitrogen and other nutrients leaching into groundwater, mostly from underground cesspools and septic tanks.  (more…)

08/22/14 10:59am
Rhode Island lawmakers were moved to act to restore water quality in area bays after thousands of juvenile fish turned up dead in Greenwich Bay on Aug. 20, 2003. Algal blooms were blamed for the kill. (Credit: Tom Ardito)

Rhode Island lawmakers were moved to act to restore water quality in area bays after thousands of juvenile fish turned up dead in Greenwich Bay on Aug. 20, 2003. Algal blooms were blamed for the kill. (Credit: Tom Ardito)

Here’s a breakdown of how three states close to Long Island are finding solutions to water quality issues.
(more…)

08/13/14 8:00am
08/13/2014 8:00 AM
Rust tide. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Rust tide, a harmful algal bloom, has been detected at East Creek in South Jamesport. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

For the first time this season, rust tide has been detected in the Peconic Estuary, experts confirmed Tuesday.

Chris Gobler, a marine biologist at Stony Brook University and leader of the Long Island Coastal Conservation and Research Alliance, said the harmful algal bloom has been detected in East Creek, on the north side of Flanders Bay in South Jamesport. (more…)

08/12/14 3:36pm
08/12/2014 3:36 PM
Southold Town Supervisor  Scott Russell discusses the deer cull results at the East Marion Community Association meeting last Thursday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell discusses the deer cull results at the East Marion Community Association meeting last Thursday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The number of deer killed in Southold Town as part of the controversial federal cull that took place earlier this year was outpaced by the town’s own hunting program, said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.

He said the federal efforts involving U.S. Department of Agriculture-trained sharpshooters were hampered by lawsuits and opposition from animal-rights and hunting groups.

Official numbers on the results of the cull have not yet been released by the Long Island Farm Bureau, which coordinated the efforts. The organization’s executive director, Joe Gergela, did not return calls seeking comment and USDA spokespeople have been referring all calls to the farm bureau.

Mr. Russell said the town’s hunting program was a success in killing 265 deer on town lands this year, the USDA cull totals from about a dozen private properties in town were lower, although he could not give exact numbers.

“The cull had been severely hamstrung,” Mr. Russell said  at a community association meeting in East Marion last Thursday. “There were groups out there that wanted to stop the cull and they were largely successful.

“The numbers [of deer killed] are going to be very low, I would say insignificant,” he added.

Opponents of the cull have called the USDA’s sharpshooter program — which involves baiting deer before shooting them, mostly at night — inhumane and a challenge to local hunter’s rights.

Mike Tessitore, president of the hunters-rights and conservation group Hunters for Deer, said he expected numbers for the cull to be low.

“It just goes to show you that hunters are not only a cheaper option but more effective,” he said.

The Long Island Farm Bureau, which had secured a $250,000 grant for the program, had lobbied all East End towns and villages last fall to contribute, asking for $25,000 from each town, including Brookhaven, and $15,000 from each village.

But the towns of Southampton, Riverhead and Shelter Island all eventually decided not to participate financially, leaving Southold as the only East End town to support the cull.

Yet sharpshooters did acquire permits to operate on private properties in Riverhead, Southold and Southampton towns, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation documents. In addition, Southold Town held its own hunting program on town-owned lands that were excluded from the cull.

Mr. Russell said Tuesday that the town will be refunded a portion of the $25,000 it paid the Long Island Farm Bureau, since the cull was minimized.

The effort was hampered in large part by a state Supreme Court decision in March that prevented the DEC from issuing any further deer hunting permits, essentially stopping the cull from expanding, Mr. Russell said.

Many of the private properties that had previously agreed to participate in the cull pulled out under pressure from the cull’s opponents, he added. Mr. Russell said the properties that remained were rendered practically unusable after hunters groups that opposed the cull — including Hunters for Deer — publicized the locations on social media and walked through the areas to disperse the deer.

But Mr. Tessitore said Tuesday that his group only posted photos of the locations, and took no steps to hamper cull activities there.

Those running the cull did attempt to “make the most” of the effort by donating thousands of pounds of venison to local food pantries, Mr. Russell said. But ultimately, he said, the cull was a disappointment.

“We have to do something here,” he said. “Deer are an economic crisis, deer are a public health crisis and believe it or not, deer are a huge environmental crisis. They’re devastating the ecosystem.”

Mr. Tessitore said in an interview that his group agreed that the deer population needed to be managed, but said federally managed culling is doing a job hunters could do for free with the right regulations.

“We want to make sure we have a good, healthy herd,” he said. “We want to protect our hunting opportunities but we also want to preserve the species … The DEC really needs to realize that hunting on Long Island needs to be regulated like a management tool, not a sport.”

Hunters for Deer was willing to work on a solution with those supporting the cull, he said. But he claims the organization was left out of the process; if the cull goes forward last this year, the group is resolved to continue to fight.

“We’re going to be more aggressive in our tactics next year,” Mr. Tessitore said. “We’re not going to be as passive.

“They’re not going to shove it down our throats like last time.”

psquire@timesreview.com

08/08/14 10:00am
08/08/2014 10:00 AM
An application by the Department of Environmental Conservation for a four-car parking lot at the end of Beach Way, a private road in Baiting Hollow, has prompted nearby homeowners to sue the state agency. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

An application by the Department of Environmental Conservation for a four-car parking lot at the end of Beach Way, a private road in Baiting Hollow, has prompted nearby homeowners to sue the state agency. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

In a town awash with thousands of parking spaces, an application for another four might not seem like that big of a deal.

But tucked away on the far side of a private road in Baiting Hollow, abutting land the New York State Department of State has labeled “irreplaceable,” four parking spaces the state Department of Environmental Conservation permitted itself last year are creating quite a stir.

A group of Baiting Hollow homeowners have taken the DEC to court over the proposed spaces, claiming the state regulatory authority went out of bounds in granting itself a tidal wetlands permit for the spots “in secret — free from any public awareness and scrutiny,” according to court filings.

“If I wanted to build on that DEC piece of property, they would make me go through a full environmental review of the impacts,” said Frank Isler, the Riverhead attorney representing the Baiting Hollow Beach Association. “It’s surprising to us that they didn’t do that themselves. And our argument is that they can’t benefit from mishandling a procedure incorrectly.”

Last summer, the DEC filed for — and approved — four parking spaces in a .2-acre lot at the west end of Beach Way, a private road at the end of Edwards Avenue overlooking the Long Island Sound. The application calls for the removal of approximately 100 cubic yards of sand to be replaced with pervious material to facilitate car use. In addition, it proposes removing an existing gate on the site and installing guard rails along the perimeter of the parking area.

The .2-acre site abuts a larger, 81-acre parcel also owned by the DEC — land the agency says it wants to open to the public. In 2005, those lands, called the Baiting Hollow Wetlands and Beach, were added to a list of “significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats” by New York State’s Department of State.

“Any activity that would disturb or eliminate marsh, natural beach, and duneland plant communities would result in a loss of valuable wildlife species,” the designation states. The 81-acre property — one of about 250 such areas statewide — is considered “an important nesting site” for the endangered piping plover and the threatened least tern, according to the DOS.

But members of the Baiting Hollow Beach Association argue that the DEC’s application ignored that designation. And because the application was deemed to have a minor impact on the environment, notification otherwise required was not given, and neighbors were unaware of the permit until weeks after it was filed. One homeowner, Roger Schilling, said he heard about the permit in passing as he tried to obtain repair permits for his own property.

But by then, it was too late to challenge the DEC’s permit, as a 30-day window had already passed by the time homeowners filed suit.

“As soon as we heard about it, we brought [the legal challenge,]” Mr. Isler said.

Mr. Schilling said the project would require some “major dune bulldozing” to clear land for the parking spaces.

“Part of that dune is what saves the back row of houses [on Beach Way] from flooding,” he said. “That’s why this is one of the things that infuriates us, by calling it a minor project. It’s a major project.”