08/03/12 8:24am
08/03/2012 8:24 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | People may soon be asked to not feed the ducks in Wading River if new signs are erected at the Duck Ponds.

The Wading River Duck Ponds may soon have signs asking people not to feed the feathered inhabitants for whom the ponds are named.

The Town of Brookhaven, which is completing a dredging project on part of the Duck Ponds, has asked Riverhead Town for permission to erect four signs telling people not to feed “waterfowl” at the Duck Ponds.

Brookhaven says that “waterfowl effluent is a contributing factor in the degradation of water quality,” and wants to put up signs that say that feeding waterfowl can cause poor nutrition, unnatural behavior, overcrowding, spread of disease and delayed migration among the birds, and pollution in the water.

The signs would be paid for by Brookhaven.

“C’mon, everybody likes to feed the duckies,” said Councilman George Gabrielsen, when the signs were discussed at Thursday’s Town Board meeting.

“If we don’t feed them, they are going to go someplace else.”

“Well, that’s what we want them to do,” Councilman Jim Wooten said. “They’re migrating birds that aren’t migrating anymore. They’re just sticking around.”

Mr. Wooten said the ducks are all over the place.

Councilman John Dunleavy said the town code already prohibits feeding geese, but it doesn’t mention ducks or other waterfowl.

That legislation, which the board had a lengthy debate over as well, was passed about a year ago at the request of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“We like to see ducks there,” Mr. Gabrielsen said.

“You think the ducks are gonna leave if you don’t throw them a piece of bread?” Mr. Wooten asked.

“Are you ready to write tickets when people feed the ducks? What’s the fine?” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked of Police Chief David Hegermiller, who was in the room on another matter.

“It just says not to feed them,” Mr. Dunleavy said, indicating that the signs do not mention a fine.

“It’s just public education, the Town of Brookhaven has to do it” according to the DEC, said Tara McLaughlin, the executive assistant to Supervisor Sean Walter, who was absent Thursday. “We’re on a property line, can we please help them out?”

“We’ve got to be be consistent,” said Mr. Gabrielsen. “On one side of town you can feed ducks, on the other side you can’t.”

Sid Bail of the Wading River Civic Association echoed Ms. McLaughlin’s comments.

“It’s public education,” he said. “You can either accept the information or be like people are with global warming, be non-believers. And if you want to be consistent, it would be nice to see the Town of Riverhead spend money on the Duck Ponds, like Brookhaven has committed $175,000.”

Brookhaven paid to dredge its half of the Duck Ponds, but Riverhead did not, saying a grant they planned to use for the project didn’t materialize.

“Our towns have to work together,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “The signs should go up.”

The board is expected to vote on the resolution at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

tgannon@timesreview.com