Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski state and town officials and environmental advocates are calling for an end to the dumping of potentially toxic materials from dredging operations into Long Island Sound. READ
Long Island environmental advocate Adrienne Esposito confirmed Sunday she’s considering a run for state office on the Democratic line. If elected, she’d be the first woman from Suffolk County elected to a seat in the state Senate.
Environmental advocates lined up Tuesday to speak out against a bill proposed in the Suffolk County Legislature that’s designed to revise the county’s land preservation program.
The bill, proposed by Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), would ensure that half of Drinking Water Protection Program funds, which must be used for land preservation, would be designated for purchasing farmland development rights.
With funding for the program dwindling, the environmental activists believe legislators should focus on securing future land preservation funds “rather than declaring one land type is more superior to all others,” said Kevin McDonald of the Nature Conservancy, during the public hearing portion of Tuesday’s Legislature meeting at the County Center in Riverside.
“We should in fact be arguing for additional funding for a wildly popular program that helps both the environment and the economy,” said Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, who also spoke during the hearing.
According to a press release from Mr. Krupski promoting his proposed bill, 95 percent of program funding currently goes to open space purchases, which include wetlands, Pine Barrens, woodlands and hamlet parks. The remaining five percent is allocated for farmland preservation, the release states.
Joe Gergela, director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said he applauds Mr. Krupski’s efforts in taking on the “sensitive” issue.
“It is a balancing act,” Mr. Gergela said at the hearing. “He has raised awareness of the importance of farmland in the program.”
Since the Drinking Water Protection Program started in 1988, about 12,000 acres of farmland have been preserved, leaving 23,000 acres to be protected, Mr. Gergela said.
Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment also took to the podium. She said that, according to the county charter, the Legislature does not have the last say on changing the voter-approved law, which directs a quarter penny sales tax on every dollar to the Drinking Water Protection Program.
A mandatory referendum is needed to make any amendments to the program, she said.
“You can’t do this legally,” she said.
“When the voters of Suffolk County approved this overwhelmingly important environmental program, they approved very specific wording and provisions and had an expectation that land preservation would proceeded accordingly,” Tom Casey, vice president of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, told legislators.
The program has secured more than a billion dollars for land preservation throughout the county, Mr. Amper said.
In 2007 the county accelerated the program, bonding purchases against future sales tax revenue through November 2011. But now the county must purchase land on a pay-as-you-go basis, significantly reducing available funds, according to previous Times/Review coverage.
Currently, the county has $25.1 million in program funds to spend on acquisition, but it already has 43 properties, totaling 420 acres, in various stages of purchase, together costing $23.9 million, according to an April 29 press release from Suffolk County executive Steven Bellone.
For future purchases, the county anticipates receiving $5 million from this years sales tax, along with $1.14 million that’s available from leftover program funds. Moving forward, it must rely solely on the yearly sales tax revenue to fund the program, according to the release.
During the hearing, Mr. Amper asked that legislators not lose sight of the program’s goal.
“This is for drinking water protection,” he said. “When you buy open space above important aquifer sources, the water below stays clean.”
The battle between environmentalists and farmers over a ban on the use of certain pesticides is heating up, and tonight’s DEC hearing at Suffolk Community College in Riverhead is expected to shine a brighter spotlight on the issue.
At a breakfast meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn in Riverhead Wednesday, members of the Long Island Farm Bureau lamented an environmentalist’s op-ed published in today’s Newsday. In the editorial, Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito called for a DEC ban on the use of three pesticides detected in Long Island drinking water: imidacloprid, metalaxyl and atrazine.
Farmers said the growing number of restrictions on pesticides used in agriculture is slowing economic development on the East End.
“I had breakfast with Adrienne last week and I said to her, ‘We find pharmaceuticals in groundwater, are we going to ban medicine?’ ” said Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela. “ ‘We’re finding fuel oil, are we going to ban cars and trucks. Why do you think you are going to ban pesticides regardless of the benefit to society?’
“Zero [use of pesticides] is an impossible standard. It cannot be met. It needs to be balanced.”
That’s a message farm bureau members say they plan to send to the state and the public in the coming months as the DEC continues to finalize the Long Island Pesticide Use Management Plan. Mr. Gergela said the Farm Bureau is currently working toward developing a new public relations campaign detailing the economic impact of pesticide restrictions on local farmers.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, say a draft version of the pesticide use management plan doesn’t do enough to protect the public from consuming contaminated drinking water.
“After more than a decade of meetings and written comments, the DEC released a new strategy in January,” Ms. Esposito wrote in her op-ed. “But calling it a strategy is misleading — it’s more like a setback.
“The DEC needs to be more proactive about restricting pesticides that contaminate groundwater,” she wrote.
Tonight’s DEC public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Suffolk’s Eastern Campus in Riverhead.