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12/16/14 12:00pm
12/16/2014 12:00 PM
The unfinished bike path at EPCAL. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

The unfinished bike path at EPCAL. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

After town board members appeared to oppose completing a bike and recreational path at the Enterprise Park at Calverton over the summer, the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved allocating $200,000 to complete the path on Monday.

Riverhead Town and New York State have already contributed $100,000 each toward the path, though three miles of the 8.9-mile path remain unpaved.

The bike path will get walkers and bikers off the dangerous public road, as it is located inside the fence around EPCAL, officials say.

Initially, it appeared part of the southern portion of the trail would be on the public street on River Road, but that will now be inside the fence as well, according to North Fork county legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), who sponsored the funding bill.

“It will be an off-road, non-motorized trail of over eight miles long for use by all county residents,” Mr. Krupski told legislators Tuesday, adding that the county won’t have to pay anything else, since the maintenance will be handled by Riverhead Town.

Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who spoke before the legislature Monday, said the town is planning on holding events on the trail, such as fundraisers for the Wounded Warriors, and a Halloween Walk.

“We just think it’s a great project,” she told legislators.

Ms. Giglio was peppered with a slew of questions from western Suffolk legislators, who asked about things like whether the trail would impede economic development at EPCAL or use of the runway there.

She said the trail is not on part of the property where the town plans to see land for economic development.

“I’m comfortable with it,” said Legislator Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue). “I think bike paths are important.”

“I think it’s a reasonable investment,” said Legislator Tom Barraga (R-West Islip), who said it cost $1.7 million for a pedestrian-friendly trail in his district that only covered 8/10ths of a mile.

Riverhead Town’s alternative transportation advisory committee, to which Ms. Giglio is the liaison, has been championing the bike for the several years.

Supervisor Sean Walter said work on the extension of the bike path can’t commence until the environmental studies of the EPCAL site are completed and the town Planning Board approves the EPCAL subdivision which will show exactly where the bike path will go.

“We’re in the end stages of the study at this point,” Mr. Walter said. He thinks the subdivision could be approved some time in early 2015.

He added that he’s not sure if the $200,000 will be enough to complete the bike path.

12/03/14 12:00pm
12/03/2014 12:00 PM
The area that will be restored at Indian Island County Park. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

The area that will be restored at Indian Island County Park. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Suffolk County is moving forward with a million-dollar plan to restore seven acres of land at Indian Island County Park in Riverhead that once served as a dumping ground for the county’s dredging projects. The measure is expected to improve the surrounding ecosystem by re-opening proper tidal flow to the area.  (more…)

09/24/14 8:00am
09/24/2014 8:00 AM
The Suffolk County Soil and Water District celebrated its 50th anniversary with an event last week. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The Suffolk County Soil and Water District celebrated its 50th anniversary with an event last week. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Before there was a state Department of Environmental Conservation tasked with protecting local soil and water resources, there was the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District. (more…)

05/12/14 3:00pm
05/12/2014 3:00 PM
Congressman Tim Bishop  (left) and County Executive Steve Bellone urged the federal government to designate the Long Island Sound and Peconic Estuary as   (Credit: Paul Squire)

Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and County Executive Steve Bellone urge the federal government to designate the Long Island Sound and Peconic Estuary as “critical conservation” areas during a press conference Monday afternoon. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Turn the Peconic Estuary and Long Island Sound into a “critical conservation” area and free up federal funds for local farmers to protect water quality?

It’s a “no-brainer,” North Fork politicians say. (more…)

01/12/14 10:00am
01/12/2014 10:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO  |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO |  The rise in deer population has become one of the biggest concerns for North Fork residents.

As a lifelong resident of the North Fork, I have witnessed the explosion of the deer population.

When I was growing up, it was rare to find deer tracks in fields or in the woods, but now it’s common to come across several deer in one’s backyard. Historically, populations of deer were dramatically lower than they are today, and we know that without natural predators and with plentiful food sources, deer populations can double in two to three years.

The agricultural industry, a critical part of the East End economy, has experienced millions of dollars of crop loss due to white-tailed deer. Farmers have spent thousands of dollars on deer fencing to protect crops; this is an expense most cannot afford. As a fourth generation farmer, I understand this all too well.

As a Suffolk County Legislator and a former Southold Town Councilman, I have spoken to hundreds of constituents whose lives have been seriously impacted by deer, whether it is by a tick-borne illness or a car accident or, as in some cases, both. I have walked through many acres of preserved open spaces and parks in my district and seen firsthand the destruction deer have done to the natural environment.

All efforts must be made to bring the population of white-tailed deer, which has reached crisis proportions in eastern Suffolk County, down to sustainable levels. The USDA sharpshooter program is one tool that can be employed to help achieve this goal and, at least in Southold Town, the community will utilize the program to decrease the herd size and protect human health, biodiversity and property.

This does not mean that there is unanimous support for culling the herd or that no controversy surrounds the program, but if the alternatives are considered objectively, the logical conclusion is that we need to act.

Tick-borne illnesses have cost millions of dollars in treatment and lost work and caused much pain and suffering. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported almost 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in New York State in 2012, but it is believed the actual number is much greater due to misdiagnosis, inconclusive testing and underreporting. New York State has one of the highest incidences of tick-borne illnesses in the country and Suffolk County has one of the highest infection rates in the state.

Lyme disease is not the only tick-borne illness associated with deer. Others, such as Babesiosis, can be particularly harmful to people with compromised immune systems. In addition, tick-borne disorders unfamiliar to scientists are emerging, such as a potentially life-threatening red meat allergy that develops in some people bitten by lone star ticks.

The Suffolk County Tick Management Task Force concluded that “the issue of tick-borne disease is inextricably linked to deer overpopulation … Any strategy for tick control must reduce the number of deer and/or the number of ticks on deer to have any chance of success.”

Unchecked growth of the white-tailed deer population has devastated the natural environment and this will continue until we act to reduce the population to a sustainable level.

Conservationists and those who advocate for the protection of wildlife alike should support policies that cull the herd to protect habitat and biodiversity. In many areas deer have destroyed the woodland understory. Invasive plant species, like mile-a-minute vine, have taken over because beneficial native plants have been gobbled up by deer.

The insects, birds and other animals these native plants and ecosystems support are now threatened and have decreased in numbers. Some forests are so stripped they may not be able to regenerate.

The problems caused by white-tailed deer overpopulation are multi-faceted and costly. As a community, we need to make the hard choices and manage the herd to lessen the occurrence of disease, habitat destruction and property loss.

If you are concerned about the well-being of individual deer, perhaps you should stop driving, because hundreds are killed or maimed in car accidents yearly. It is not a pretty sight to see an animal writhing in pain after being hit but not killed.

The USDA program is conducted safely, professionally and humanely. The meat harvested is a good source of protein and will not go to waste but will be donated to food pantries and homeless shelters feeding many people in need on Long Island.

Al Krupski is a Suffolk County legislator whose district encompasses the North Fork. He lives in Cutchogue.

12/19/13 2:30pm
12/19/2013 2:30 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A drainage pipe from the preserve? in the front lawn of a home on Sound Shore Road in Northville.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A drainage pipe from the preserve in the front lawn of a home on Sound Shore Road in Northville.

After years of poking and prodding public officials to do something about periodic flooding on Sound Shore Road in Northville — flooding that includes contaminated water, tests have shown — residents in the area will get their wish for an overhaul of an outdated culvert system, courtesy of Suffolk County.

A series of underground pipes directs groundwater from the North Fork Preserve to Northville Beach and, for years, debate has raged over who — if anyone — would be responsible for updating the damaged system, which is believed to have been installed in the 1930s under the Works Progress Administration. The damaged pipes run underneath Sound Shore Road and through properties on its north side before reaching the beach.

The 307-acre preserve, previously two separate lots, was purchased in 2011 for $18 million. Suffolk County chipped in the lion’s share of the cost to construct a park, with Riverhead Town using $500,000 in Community Preservation Fund money. Now, with the responsibility of owning the land, Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said that updating the sub-par culverts falls to Suffolk, even if the cash-strapped county has to borrow $850,000 to do the work. County legislators approved a measure Tuesday to do just that.

“We’ve inherited quite a problem over there,” said Mr. Krupski. “But now it’s the county’s liability to fix.”

Mr. Krupski said that work to fix the problem, which started to emerge over a decade ago, could begin as soon as this winter, .

According to a 2009 Riverhead News-Review article, a November 2007 report from the Suffolk County Health Department found that during the summer months, fecal contamination was evident in the culvert system, which could be attributable to shallow groundwater, surface water runoff, animal waste “and, potentially, leaching from on-site disposal systems.”

That same county report recommended that people not swim near areas where culverts from the property discharge.

Independent testing completed a year later by the Northville Beach Civic Association, led by former civic president Kerry Moran, found extremely high counts of fecal matter in samples leaching from the culverts, some of which drain directly onto Long Island Sound beaches. One test revealed a fecal coliform number five times the level that would have closed a public beach. Mr. Moran died in 2011 of injuries sustained after being struck by an automobile the year before.

Mr. Krupski said the cost to construct a sump on the preserve originally came in at nearly $1.5 million. However, further discussion led to the current plan, which will still discharge groundwater into Long Island Sound, a plan for which, he said, the county had permission from the Department of Environmental Conservation. Mr. Krupski added that the only contaminants in the groundwater after the pipes are repaired should be animal waste.

John Cullen, president of the civic group for the past three years, said that Northville homeowners affected by the substandard pipe system “were hoping, and still are hoping, that things will be fixed with the water coming off the preserve.”

In recent months, Mr. Cullen said, several meetings with the county Department of Public Works have led to a sense of optimism in that regard.

“The DPW has been very helpful,” he said. “We’re just hoping this can be over and done with.”

12/18/13 4:00pm
12/18/2013 4:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO

A measure by Legislator Al Krupski to amend how the county purchases farmland and open space failed to pass on Tuesday, even after the Cutchogue Democrat revised the proposed bill after it initially drew the ire of some environmentalists.

In June, Mr. Krupski proposed his original farmland preservation amendment, which suggested splitting the use of the county’s Drinking Water Protection Fund 50-50 between open space and farmland purchases. But dedicating a specific portion of the revenue stream to one use or the other proved too much to ask, and the legislator later altered his proposed amendment, pitching a watered-down version of the legislation in July.

Mr. Krupski’s amended proposal made no mention of setting aside a certain percentage of land purchases for open space or farmland. It did, however, set certain standards that parcels must meet in order to be appraised by the county — a required step before legislators vote to purchase land.

“I find it surprising that in any way, we could find it controversial that we would spend our money more wisely,” he said before the vote at Tuesday’s general meeting.

But the added benchmarks concerned at least 13 legislators, who voted to table the amendment in the final meeting of the year Tuesday, effectively killing it.

Attention to Suffolk’s land purchases through the Drinking Water Protection Fund came to the fore in the past year after the county bonded out against future revenues and subsequently used nearly all the funding. While land was at that time available for historically low prices, Suffolk County, Southampton and Riverhead towns were just a few of the municipalities that borrowed to buy now rather than later.

Legislator Lou D’Amaro (D-North Babylon) said before Tuesday’s floor vote that he didn’t believe the proposed appraisal rating system was designed to be considered a threshold for whether a particular parcel could ever be purchased.

Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport) said Mr. Krupski’s amendment would likely favor the first and second legislative districts — the North and South Forks — as they would codify the process of appraising land parcels, and most parcels available for open space and farmland preservation purchases are located out east.

“To set a rule that would cause me to put my constituents at a disadvantage permanently — I have a very difficult time doing that,” he said.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), chair of the county’s environment, planning and agriculture committee, said last week that those proposed thresholds, in effect, favor purchasing farmland over open space, as the standards were harder to meet for open space buys.

“It’s not treating them equally, and we have a preference for open space because this is drinking water protection money,” she said. “And a wooded parcel that’s open space is protecting drinking water more than preserving farmland would.”

While the Mr. Krupski’s proposed amendment wasn’t rejected, having been tabled Tuesday, it would have to be re-introduced next year in order to be considered once again. Mr. Krupski said he doesn’t intend to bring it back up immediately and will see how previously approved alterations in the land-buying process, which go into effect next year, work out.