06/16/13 6:30pm
06/16/2013 6:30 PM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Police searched for an overturned boat near Wildwood State Park Sunday.

Local law enforcement responded to a report of an overturned boat floating in Long Island Sound near Wildwood State Park in Wading River Sunday afternoon.

Riverhead Town Police said a civilian aircraft called authorities after sighting a boat drifting about five miles from the beach at Wildwood State Park. The U.S. Coast Guard and Suffolk County Police assisted Riverhead Town Police in locating the boat, which was found about 4:30 p.m.

Police said the boat — a dinghy — had fishing gear on it, but nobody was spotted in the water and no one has been reported missing. They are calling the search precautionary.

Anyone with information on the boat can contact police at 727-4500.

ryoung@timesreview.com

06/03/13 12:25pm
06/03/2013 12:25 PM
Suffolk Sheriff's new marine boat

COURTESY PHOTO | Marine 41 will be available to all East End marine units.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office has purchased a custom-made, 41-foot emergency response ship equipped with high-tech features like side-scan sonar and forward-looking infrared cameras, allowing it to spy on bay and ocean bottoms and navigate through the night with the utmost confidence.

The vessel will be used by members of the East End Marine Task Force, established in 2007 to help coordinate marine units from across the East End. The task force includes sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Coast Guard officers. Marine law enforcement units from each of the five East End towns also signed a memorandum of agreement to share and standardize equipment and training.

The task force agreement allows participating personnel to cross town borders when needed, which “increases safety and keeps costs down,” said sheriff’s office’s marine unit commanding officer, Sgt. John Andrejack.

Sgt. Andrejack is tasked with overseeing and managing the new boat.

“I don’t know of any other vessels like this,” Sgt. Andrejack said.

The ship, Marine 41, is a C.B.R.N.E.-response vessel -— which stands for Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and Explosive — outfitted with radar, chart plotters and a dual-screen GPS. The boat is designed to be able to respond to a nuclear, chemical or biological attack or accident.

It’s powered by twin Cummins Diesel motors and does not have propellers. The boat is instead propelled by Hamilton Jets, which allow it to operate in very shallow water (less than three feet), officials said. The cabin air is always purified, with no outside air circulated inside. If the boat enters an area with hazardous smoke and fumes, there is constant clean air in the cabin, official said.

Marine 41 has firefighting capability with a water pump that can move 2,000 gallons a minute. It also comes with a 500-pound Davit winch to lift and recover things from the water.

“This is the most well-equipped response boat in the area,” said Sgt. Andrejack, who was involved in acquiring, designing and equipping the craft.

Officers on the task force from all different towns will crew the ship, he said.

“This vessel is crewed by multiple agencies, used for whatever town may need it for any large event,” Sgt. Andrejack explained, giveing the annual Maritime Festival in Greenport as one example. “It can be transferred from town to town when and where it is needed.”

The sheriff’s office was able to make the purchase using a $1.2 million Federal Emergency Management Agency Port Security Grant, officials said. The grant also allowed for the purchase of personal radiation protectors and 40 strong exposure suits that can be used to protect officers during severe storms or harsh winter weather, both to be distributed to members of the East End Marine Task Force.

The boat also came with a survival raft, EMT equipment and is able accommodate a patient on a backboard.

Marine 41 and all the on-board equipment cost $650,000.

A full-scale training exercise was recently performed on the boat. That simulation exercise, based on an actual recent event, involved a fishing vessel had dredged up hazardous material that the crew had to “decontaminate” before towing the vessel back to shore.

“A vessel of this capability was lacking in the region and the citizens of the East End deserve the capability and protection this asset provides,” Sgt. Andrejack said.

intern@timesreview.com

05/24/13 8:00am
05/24/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Fresh Pond Landing Beach east from Edwards Avenue in Baiting Hollow last week.

People will be swimming at their own risk at Riverhead Town’s three Long Island Sound beaches until the end of June, according to recreation department superintendent Ray Coyne, who said the move is being done in part because of Hurricane Sandy damage, and to save money.

“Those beaches are not ready for swimming,” he said, though he said the beaches have improved in recent months compared to the condition they were in after Sandy.

 

The South Jamesport bay beach will have lifeguards on weekends starting Memorial Day, and swimming will be permitted there, he said. But Long Island Sound beaches at Iron Pier, Wading River and Reeves Park will not have lifeguards until June 24.

All four beaches will have attendants on weekends after Memorial Day, and town parking stickers will be required, Mr. Coyne said. People can go to the Sound beaches, but those who swim there without a lifeguard do so at their own risk, he said.

At Iron Pier, the town is replacing a sidewalk that was destroyed during Sandy, said Supervisor Sean Walter. That work is being paid for with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, he said.

[Editorial: Town shouldn't scapegoat Sandy just to save a buck]

The supervisor said he supports the decision not to post lifeguards at Sound beaches until June 24.

As for the condition of Iron Pier beach, Mr. Coyne said, “We just needed to clean it, because there was a lot of debris that had washed ashore during the storm. We lost some of the beach, but I’d say we’re in fairly good shape at Iron Pier.”

In Wading River, Mr. Walter said the town dredged Wading River Creek over the winter and got permission from the state to deposit the dredged sand on the beach in front of the homes between the creek’s eastern jetty and the town beach. That sand was pushed up against what used to be the dune, he said, and helped cover up a lot bulkheads and cesspools that were exposed following Sandy.

As for the town beach there, “I don’t think we lost a lot of beach at Wading River,” Mr. Coyne said. “We are in pretty good shape over there.”

The town doesn’t operate Hulse Landing as a bathing beach with lifeguards, but people need parking stickers to park there, and the town also has a boat ramp there, Mr. Coyne said.

That beach has rebounded nicely since the storm, Mr. Walter said.

“It’s just a slightly different landscape this year at the beaches,” Mr. Walter said. “Overall, I don’t think it will be anything insurmountable.”

After June 24, all four beaches will be open — with lifeguards — seven days a week. Last year, the town opened all four beaches on weekends only after Memorial Day with lifeguards and attendants, switching them all to seven days a week at the end of June, Mr. Coyne said.

“It’s a combination of things,” Mr. Coyne said in explaining the staffing changes. “Because of Hurricane Sandy and the damage done on the Long Island Sound beaches, we wanted a little more time to clean them up. And in the case of Reeves Beach, we wanted more time for the beach to come back.”

The other reason, he said, is that studies his department has done show that not many people swim at this time of year, so the department can save money by not hiring the lifeguards.

“If people want to swim in June, they can still go to South Jamesport,” Mr. Coyne said.

Of the four town beaches, South Jamesport made out the best after the hurricane.

“South Jamesport was barely touched,” Mr. Coyne said. The bathroom was flooded by the stormwater, but the beach itself had no problems.

Reeves Park Beach fared the worst of the four.

“As of a few months ago, there was no [Reeves] beach, but it’s slowly coming back,” Mr. Coyne said. “So we’re not going to open it for swimming until the end of June, and we’re hoping there will be enough beach there to put a lifeguard stand.

“If we have to move the lifeguard stand at high tide, then we will not have it open. But I’m confident we will.”

At one point, Mr. Coyne said, the water at Reeves Park came all the way up to the staircase leading down to the beach at high tide, but the beach has been growing in the past six to eight weeks.

“If you had asked me two months ago, I would say we’re not opening it,” Mr. Coyne said.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park, had warned town officials earlier this year about the poor condition of Reeves Beach, but he said Tuesday that it has recovered since then.

Mr. Biegler said the decision not to post lifeguards at Sound beaches before June 24 could be a liability issue if someone has an accident or drowns at a beach without a lifeguard.

“It’s Memorial Day weekend, everyone is thinking beaches, and to not have lifeguards on duty raises a concern,” he said. “But I’ll leave it up to their judgment.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

05/24/13 7:59am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | All the debris from Hurricane Sandy appears to be cleared from Iron Pier Beach.

Our often unsung town workers have worked hard since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the town’s bay and Long Island Sound coastlines last fall — be it through clearing debris or repairing infrastructure — to get the beaches ready for the summer season. The town also dredged and dumped sand to build up beaches and protect houses in Wading River.

The workers should be commended for their effort. Mother Nature has also done her part in helping restore the shore, especially at Reeves Beach, which was virtually nonexistent this winter. But all this hard work and good fortune could be wasted if town recreation department head Ray Coyne moves ahead with plans to leave town beaches without lifeguards for Memorial Day weekend and four more weekends in June.

The News-Review toured the local coastline last week, and the beaches look great. Yet Mr. Coyne tells us he wants to hold off on filling lifeguard chairs until the end of June, because he wants “a little more time to clean up.”

He also mentioned that the move would save the town money. With temperatures already reaching well into the 70s, however, the time is now to make our beaches safe for families.

Aside from obvious safety concerns of having beachgoers swimming at their own risk in June, it’s important to remember that residents from Riverhead, the North Fork and across Long Island put up with the high cost of living here in part because of our proximity to water.

There’s no reason to shave off any part of the summer season unless it’s absolutely necessary. Saving a few bucks is not a good reason.

04/21/13 8:30am
04/21/2013 8:30 AM
Orion in Cutchogue

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Orion constellation as seen from along the Sound shore in Cutchogue.

So there I was, standing on the Sound shore in Cutchogue Saturday night, looking out over the inky sky and black water, minding me own business and freezing me shamrocks off.

Why, in the name of all that’s good and holy, am I out here by myself with a sharp wind cutting right through me? I might have said that out loud, but so what?

There was no one else anywhere near to hear some fool muttering to himself as he stood next to a tripod-mounted Nikon with a camera case on his shoulder to keep it off the coarse sand still damp from the receding tide.

Why? Because I actually bought into the hype that the northern lights, the elusive and eerily beautiful aurora borealis (dawn of the north), would be visible on Long Island thanks to a large solar flare that erupted Thursday.

The northern lights are usually seen, well, in the north — in places such as Alaska, Canada and Scandinavia. The North Fork usually ain’t north enough. But what the heck, the forecast for an awesome aurora was all over the Internet so it had to be true, right?

Yeah, well, no. OK, some basic science. A solar flare is a large release of energy from the sun in the form of electrons, ions and other stuff I never studied in 19th Century Romantic Poets. They go hurtling through space — particles, not poets — sometimes in our direction.

After a journey of 93 million miles, which is hard to imagine unless you’ve ever been stuck in traffic on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, the particles are drawn toward the magnetic north and south poles.

Some pass through the earth’s magnetic field, which shields us from dangerous radiation, and when they interact with oxygen and nitrogen molecules, they produce that weird glow, often in the shape of a billowing green curtain. The sun is always shedding highly energized particles, so aurora displays are common in some parts of the world.

I once witnessed an absolutely mind-blowing display of the northern lights, with a tripod-mounted Nikon by my side, but I have no photographic record of it. When I lumbered down to the Sound in my F-150 pickup Saturday night I did so in search of a possible cover photo, but also, and more important, of photographic redemption.

In 1982, me oldest brother Mike rented a house in Southwest Harbor on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, the home of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. He was kind enough to invite me and the Mrs. and our then 4-month-old son to join his family for a week.

One evening at dinner we talked about things we’d like to do, basically a bucket list long before someone coined that term. My list was pretty mild and did not contain anything like stealing a Rolls Royce convertible, driving out to Las Vegas and running off to Tijuana with a couple of show girls. OK, I may have thought it, but I never said it.

Anyway, I allowed as how I always wanted to see a whale in the wild and witness the northern lights. (Told ya they were mild.) Later as I was reading in bed Mike knocked on the door. You’re never gonna believe it, he said. The guy on the 11 o’clock news said there could be a great display of northern lights — tonight!

I leaped out of bed, threw on some jeans and off we raced toward Cadillac Mountain, some 1,528 feet up.

There, hanging in the sky just above Bar Harbor, I saw the green shimmering curtain. Oh. My. God. Not just there, everywhere. The entire sky pulsed with auroral displays. Overhead, to the east, to the west. I stood, mouth agape like a dead snapper, looking — south — at the northern lights.

I aimed my telephoto lens toward Bar Harbor, and in the viewfinder I saw an image from National Geographic. But it wasn’t to be. There wasn’t a cloud in the moonless sky, but the wind was blowing something fierce, or as they say in Maine, wicked haaaad.

The tripod shook like I did on my first date. When back home I rushed to get the film developed, but alas, there was nothing even remotely resembling northern lights. It was all a blur of street lights. Fudge! When would I ever get another opportunity like that?

On the 13th of Never, that’s when. That’s why this solar flair thing got me going, but with the same disappointing results. Out of sheer boredom I took a few shots of the Orion Constellation with the crescent moon, which in a time-lapse exposure looked like a fuzzy piece of white lint. Yeah, Sky & Telescope magazine won’t be texting me anytime soon.

Hey, when’s Comet Halley due back? 2062? I’ll be 108, but it could happen.

tkelly@timesreview.com

02/04/13 5:51pm
02/04/2013 5:51 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Depleted beach along Creek Road in Wading River.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Depleted beach along Creek Road in Wading River.

Riverhead Town officials are hoping to rebuild part of the Long Island Sound beach in Wading River using sand dredged from Wading River Creek.

The Town Board on Tuesday is expected to approve a resolution transferring $10,000 from Federal Emergency Management Agency aid to hire a contractor to survey the current conditions in the creek and to determine the cost of the project. The town hopes to be reimbursed by FEMA for the entire cost of the project.

Superstorm Sandy left most of the beaches along Long Island Sound with far less sand than they previously had, and some of the homes along Creek Road in Wading River are now much closer to the water than they used to be.

“We have to find sand somewhere to try and protect some of those houses and we’re hoping some of it is still in that creek,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “The creek didn’t really fill in during Sandy, but it is filling in now. It’s the only place I can think of where we are going to get some sand that’s not going to cost millions of dollars.

“And to the extent we can put it up on the beach and protect some of these houses, we’ll do it. But we’re not going to be able to protect them all.”

The cost of pumping sand from an offshore site could be in the millions, officials have said.

Mr. Walter raised this issue with state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joseph Martens earlier this year at a Long Island Association breakfast, and was told the agency would look into it.

While the town’s efforts to dredge Wading River Creek in the past have been hampered by environmental regulations aimed at protecting nesting piping plovers and winter flounder, Mr. Walter says the town is seeking to do the dredging and beach restoration during the normal environmental windows when dredging is permitted.

The town will need DEC permission to modify its dredging permit to allow for the beach restoration, according to a DEC spokesperson.

“DEC issued a permit for maintenance dredging of Wading River Creek to the Town of Riverhead in 2004 which expires in February of 2014,” said DEC spokesperson Aphrodite Montalvo. “DEC received a request for a permit-modification following Hurricane Sandy from the town and is currently reviewing the request.

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/28/13 7:45am
01/28/2013 7:45 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Riverhead police office Patrick Lennon and Captain Richard Smith at Friday night’s awards dinner.

Riverhead Town police officer Patrick Lennon has been named Officer of the Year for his quick thinking, which helped save five people, including a 7-year-old boy, from peril in the Long Island Sound.

Mr. Lennon received the award, presented by Riverhead Police Captain Richard Smith, at the Southampton Town Kiwanis Club’s 43rd Annual Police Awards Ceremony, Friday night.

On the night of July 8, the Riverhead Police Department received word of several people yelling for help from Long Island Sound waters. Mr. Lennon and Police officer Jeffrey Hamilton responded to the scene.

“They reported that they were out fishing when a wave hit the boat, flipping it,” Mr. Smith said. “When [Officers Lennon and Hamilton ] arrived on scene, bystanders said they heard several voices screaming for help. It was at this time that [Mr. Lennon] decided to utilize a motor boat to help with rescue efforts.”

“It was just spur of the moment,” Mr. Lennon said. “I figured everyone else was further away.” Mr. Hamilton stayed on shore to relay messages.

Along with three local residents, Mr. Lennon took to the water, locating two men in the dark of night, about a quarter-mile offshore. After pulling them into the boat, “The rescued men then informed them there were three more victims in the water, one being a 7-year-old boy,” Mr. Smith said.

“At that point, we literally dragged them into the boat, we had to move,” said Mr. Lennon, an officer since 2006 and a father himself.

Rescuers continued to search the “pitch black” water, finding the three more victims clinging to an overturned boat about a half-mile out. Only two of the victims were wearing life jackets, Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Lennon and the local residents pulled them onto the boat and brought all five people safely to shore.

Read about Southold Town’s ‘Officer of the Year’

 

cmiller@timesreview.com

01/13/13 10:00am
01/13/2013 10:00 AM

A dredge spoil disposal map showing current dumping sites.

Don’t dump dredge spoil in eastern Long Island Sound.

That was the message some speakers had for the federal Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday at a hearing on finding potential sites to replace two existing dredge disposal sites in eastern Long Island Sound.

Others argued that dredging is necessary to maintain a water-based economy.

The meeting, held at Suffolk County Community College’s culinary center in Riverhead, was billed as a “notice of intent to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the potential designation of one or more ocean-dredged material disposal sites to serve the eastern Long Island Sound region.”

There are four such dredge dumping sites in Long Island Sound now, one dubbed the Western Suffolk site, south of Stamford, Conn.; one called Central Long Island Sound, south of New Haven; one called Cornfield Shoals, north of Greenport; and one called the New London site, just west of Fishers Island.

The Cornfield Shoals and New London sites are scheduled to be closed on Dec. 23, 2016, and the EPA is looking for new sites for dredge disposal, which was the subject of the hearing.

Most of what is disposed in these sites comes from Connecticut, according to the EPA. That’s because the dredge material from Long Island is mostly sand, and can be used for beach restoration, whereas most of the dredge material from Connecticut is fine-grained silt or clay and cannot be used for beach restoration.

The Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment doesn’t think any dredge spoil should be dumped in Long Island Sound, according to the non-profit group’s executive programs manager, Maureen Dolan Murphy.

That group opposed the designation of the two western Long Island Sound sites in 2004 and opposes designating new sites, as well.

“It did not make logical sense that after millions of dollars spent on restoring the Sound, we would designate it as a long-term dumping ground,” she said.

She said CCE agrees that dredging for navigation safety is necessary, but that open water disposal for dredge materials is not.

She said EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 agreed to phase out open water dumping and to develop a “Dredged Material Management Plan” before deciding on its next step.

But that plan has never been developed, Ms. Murphy said.

“CCE believes it is risky and ill-advised to proceed with a long-term designation of an open-water disposal site before the final development of a DMMP,” she said. “Particularly since the goal and intent of the DMMP was to reduce open water disposal.”

Southold Town Councilman Al Krupski, who is running for Suffolk County Legislature in a special election being held Tuesday, echoed those sentiments.

“If Long Island Sound is a federally designated estuary, how do we propose to use it as a dump site for toxic spoil?” he said. “It just doesn’t’ make any sense.”

The Fishers Island Conservancy also objects to any further open water dumping sites in Long Island Sound, and feels EPA should look to areas outside of Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound for dump sites, according to Robert Evans of the FIC.

“We’ve been concerned for many years about the damage caused by the large-scale disposal at the New London site,” Mr. Evans said. “The Conservancy was party to the 1995 lawsuit that resulted in a 2002 settlement providing for the EPA’s formal designation process for dredged material disposal sites.”

He said the last large-scale dumping in the New London site was seven years ago, when about 400,000 cubic yards of dredge material was dumped there.

“The lobster population was greatly harmed and few believe the damage was coincidental,” Mr. Evans said, adding that the waters near the site have very strong currents and shallow depths.

“Dumping spoil in those waters is akin to throwing dirt into a fan,” Mr. Evans said.

Daniel Natchez, who owns a Mamaroneck-based environmental waterfront design company, took the opposite side of the argument, saying that people need to consider the economic impacts of not dredging.

“If you don’t dredge, the material that everyone is concerned about just sits there, and you swim in it, or have recreation in it,” he said, adding that people won’t have access to waterways.

“These are things that are going to have an adverse effect to quality of life,” he said.

And Bill Spicer, who owns Spicer’s Marina in Noack, CT, near Mystic, also feels that dredging is needed for the economy.

“Connecticut has billions of dollars at stake on the waterfront,” he said.

He suggested the dredge disposal sites be put in Connecticut waters, since Connecticut uses them more often.

tgannon@timesreview.com