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

11/17/12 9:33am
11/17/2012 9:33 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The severely eroded bluffs near Hulse Landing Road beach in Wading River.

Work will begin on Monday to repair three large breaches to the ocean barrier beach caused by Hurricane Sandy along the South Shore, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.

But what about the North Shore?

That’s the question Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and some residents who live along the Long Island Sound are asking, as Hurricane Sandy has erased much of the beach that used to stand between their homes and the water.

“Right now, the mean high water mark is probably in some people’s living rooms,” Mr. Walter said Friday.

“About 70 to 80 feet of beach is just gone,” said Jim Loscalzo, who lives on Creek Road in Wading River.

The beach along Creek Road now is almost up to the houses and bulkheads that have been buried for years are now exposed. In one case, a cesspool ring is visible on the beach.

Mr. Loscalzo, who rode out the storm with his wife, said he lost everything below the first floor of his home, including two cars that flooded.

“We’re very nervous about this situation,” said Ginnie Grieco of Oak Street in Wading River, which is just east of the town beach there. “The storm took most of our beach away.”

Ms. Grieco is planning to initiate a petition drive to get the federal government to rebuilt the beach, much like it’s doing on the South Shore.

“I see them giving a billion dollars to help the South Shore, but why not the North Shore?” she asked. “Right now, high tide is almost in my living room.”

Other areas along the Sound in Riverhead Town also have seen significant erosion since Sandy. The water along the beach at the end of Hulse Landing Road is now right up to the house on the westerly corner of the road, and almost up to the bluffs on the east. Houses on the top of those bluffs are now perilously close to the edge.

At the end of Edwards Avenue in Calverton, the water is also right up to the base of beachfront homes.

Mr. Walter said he attended a Long Island Association breakfast Friday morning at which state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joe Martens spoke on the subject of Hurricane Sandy.

Mr. Walter said he asked the commissioner if there was a way the state or federal government could initiate a project to rebuild the badly eroded Sound beaches by dredging sand from bottom offshore and pumping onto the beach.

He said Mr. Martens told him they’d look into it.

The supervisor said he’s also been in contact with Congressman Tim Bishop’s office.
Oliver Longwell, an aide to Mr. Bishop, said Friday that the process that led to the South Shore projects is different from what would apply to Sound beaches.

“Those are beaches that are managed by the federal government, so that is something the Army Corp has funds already appropriated for, from Fire Island to Montauk Point,” Mr. Longwell said.

On the Sound beaches, he said, Riverhead Town would have to initiate a beach restoration project on its own, and seek reimbursement from the federal government.

He said the town would know in advance if a federal appropriations bill with money for such projects had been approved.

The federal government also will need to provide help by exempting certain projects from standing dredging deadlines. Dredging is usually prohibited during winter flounder and piping plover mating seasons.

Mr. Walter said he understands that the ocean barrier beaches need to be restored, but the North Shore needs help too.

“It’s a mess along the Sound, and we’re trying to get the attention of the powers that be to address it, because if I dredge a little bit of sand out of Wading River Creek, we might be able to help a few homeowners, but we’re not going to be able to do what needs to be done,” Mr. Walter said.

“What we really need is an offshore dredge to come in and dredge the sand out of the Sound and then put it up on the beach.”

And that type of project is expensive, he added.

Even when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides assistance, the town still must pay 25 percent of the cost.

“If you’re talking about tens of millions of dollars, and the town had to pay 25%, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Mr. Walter said. “We want to see if we can get them to do it.”

Mr. Loscalzo said that when he bought his property in the mid-1980s the beach along Creek Road looked much like it does now with stairs leading down to the beach. Over the years, the Long Island Lighting Company, LIPA’s predecessor, raised the beach by pumping sand onto it from when it dredged Wading River Creek.

“This storm, in 8 or 9 hours, destroyed everything that’s been done down here,” he said.
He said he rode out Hurricane Gloria in 1985 too, and he thinks Sandy was much worse.

“Sandy made Gloria seem like a wind storm,” he said. “My wife and I stood on our deck and watched telephone poles and boats and everything floating by.”

The town has begun to receive applications from beachfront homeowners seeking to rebuild their bulkheads damaged in the storm, and Mr. Walter said he hopes to have a system in place to expedite those applications.

11/04/12 11:45am
11/04/2012 11:45 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Joseph Bunicci and dog Barney on their deck overlooking the Long Island Sound bluff.

Hurricane Sandy left some homes in Wading River teetering on the edge of the Long Island Sound bluffs.

Joseph and Mary Bunicci of Lewin Drive in Wading River said they rode out the storm in their home overlooking Long Island Sound, which lost about 20 feet of bluff during Super Storm Sandy, as officials are now calling it.

“We tried to get out, but there were trees blocking the road,” Ms. Bunicci said. She said the home was shaking during the storm, and after it was over, there was a lot less bluff.

“The whole bluff basically goes halfway under our deck,” she said. “There’s a rope across a third of the deck. You can’t go past that, because it’s very dangerous.”

Ms. Bunicci said her home and her neighbors on either side of her didn’t sustain any structural damage, other than some lost shingles.

But she added, “If the storm didn’t stop when it did, the whole thing would have gone over.”

The Buniccis, their two neighbors on either side of them, and the Lewin Hills Association have hired Craig Larsen of Larsen Excavating & Bulkheading to try and come up with a solution to the problem.

Mr. Larsen said an application has been filed with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to build what’s called a “rock armor wall” at the base of the bluff to prevent further erosion.

The application is awaiting a decision from the DEC, he said.

The proposed wall would be about 60 feet long and 10 feet high and would have one to three tons of stones. Ms. Bunicci said a nearby property along the bluff by Crescent Court already had this type of structure built.

“And it looks beautiful,” she said.

Ms. Bunicci said the all three houses are solid, but the storm damage from Sandy may have complicated the issue.

“Now we have twice as much work to do,” she said.

In addition to erosion of the bluff, there also is less beach down below it, she said.

The Buniccis bought their home in 2004 and applied for bulkheading to protect it in 2006, but that application was denied. She hopes the rock armor wall will be approved and the bluff can be built back up.

She says this type of storm is probably happens once in a 100 years.

“I think the worst is over,” she said. “One thing to be grateful for is that nobody died, and our pets are safe.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

10/30/12 3:32pm
10/30/2012 3:32 PM

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | The back of a home on Creek Road in Wading RIver was left with an exposed cesspool in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

As the normally tranquil Long Island Sound was whipped up into what looked like the Atlantic on a bad day, the homes lining the shore on Creek Road in Wading River appeared in perilous danger.

Wind gusts made it difficult to stand Monday morning at Wading River Beach as Hurricane Sandy roared toward the East Coast.

Later in the day, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter worried some of the homes could be facing catastrophic damage as the water pounded the shoreline.

As day broke Tuesday and the heavy winds gave way to clear skies, relieved residents returned home to find their houses spared of any major damage.

“I was afraid to open this door,” said Lucille Ciano, a 30-year resident of Creek Road. “I was afraid to see.”

Siding from her neighbor’s roof blew off onto her property and some railings broke on her deck.

“Downstairs the house is fine,” she said. “We were lucky.”

The storm still caused major erosion as about 10-15 feet of a dune was wiped away. Flooding was still an issue Tuesday morning on the street and debris lined the beach. A deer carcass ended up only a few feet from the playground.

Linda Heller, who’s lived on Creek Road for 16 years, returned home to discover that so much land had been wiped away behind her home, the cesspool was exposed.

“I was very surprised to say the least,” she said. “You don’t expect to see your cesspool.”

Ms. Heller tried to ride out the storm from her home. But about midway through, her son, who’s a police officer, convinced her to come to his home nearby in Wading River.

She said it was the worst storm she’s experienced.

Ms. Ciano said Hurricane Sandy wasn’t as bad as the infamous Nor’easter from 1991, dubbed The Perfect Storm.

“This place was decimated,” she said.

Ms. Ciano said she could already see the water beginning to get rough early Sunday. She wasn’t about to stick around for the rest.

“I left about 2 o’clock,” she said. “I figured, what’s the sense? Not that I was afraid. But I figured what is to be is to be. It’s only making your stomach turn. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

joew@timesreview.com

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Damage to the back of a house on Creek Road.

10/29/12 12:12pm
10/29/2012 12:12 PM
Wading River Beach, Video, Riverhead, Hurricane Sandy, Long ISland Sound

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | A video still from Wading RIver Beach Monday.

The News-Review will be publishing videos from the Riverhead area and the rest of the North Fork during Hurricane Sandy.

Check back frequently over the next few days and feel free to email links of your videos, too, and we’ll post them here.

The winds were intense at Wading River Beach about 10:15 a.m. Friday:

Downtown Riverhead about 11 a.m. Monday:

Wading River Beach:

Founders Landing on Southold Bay: