06/01/15 3:09pm
06/01/2015 3:09 PM
Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman James Wooten smiled and posed for photos after a meeting in 2011. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman James Wooten smiled and posed for photos after a meeting in 2011. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

After they both lost their party’s nomination for re-election last week, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten intend to run as a pair in primaries this fall against the party favorites.

Mr. Walter, running for his fourth two-year term in office, lost by half a gubernatorial vote to party-nominee Jodi Giglio, and said on Friday he hopes to get the nomination of the Independence and Conservative parties.

Instead of the incumbent councilman Mr. Wooten, the GOP committee went with retired police officers Tim Hubbard and Bob Peeker to fill Mr. Wooten’s seat, as well as the one currently belonging to Councilman George Gabrielsen, who is not running for re-election.

(more…)

05/30/15 3:03pm
05/30/2015 3:03 PM
Dead bunker like these have been washing up on local shores since late last week. (Credit: Christopher Gobler)

Dead bunker like these have been washing up on local shores since late last week. (Credit: Christopher Gobler)

A recent die-off of bait fish in the Peconic Estuary has Riverhead Town rallying local fishermen to harvest as many bunker as they can before the fish die, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

“It’s a critical situation,” Mr. Walter said. “We’re having a real problem.”

The die-off has been blamed on low oxygen levels in nearby waters caused by a recent algae bloom, said Christopher Gobler, a biologist at Stony Brook University who’s been investigating the kill.

“This may be the biggest fish kill I’ve ever seen and I’ve been working for more than 20 years,” he told the News-Review.

  • How a fish kill unfolds: Scroll down to see

The kill comes weeks after a separate massive die-off of diamondback terrapin turtles, which has also been linked to toxic shellfish likely caused by the algae — also known as red or brown tide.

Mr. Gobler said oxygen levels in the Peconic Estuaries began dropping Wednesday night as the algae became more dense. By Friday, readings from the County Road 105 bridge showed zero oxygen in the water for the fish to breathe.

When a school of bunker swam into this “dead zone,” they suffocated and died, he said. There have been reports of thousands of the dead bunker washing up along town and private beaches.

“This is a pretty remarkable size fish kill,” Mr. Gobler noted. “There were fished piled on top of each other on the shoreline.”

Mr. Walter said that may pose a public safety hazard. While the town is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Mr. Walter said they’ll need to dispose of the dead fish somehow.

11330023_10204170173286525_3614910240458071008_nIdeally, the fish would be cleaned up and moved to the Brookhaven landfill, if the DEC allows that, he said. Otherwise, Mr. Walter said he may declare a town-wide state of emergency to clean up the fish and bury them at the town’s own waste facility.

“We’re ready to take action, we just don’t know what action we’re going to take,” Mr. Walter said. “The next 24 hours will tell.”

While the town waits for DEC approval, Mr. Walter said local boat captains have been contacted to round up bunker in the Peconic Estuary before they continue to die off.

Nate Phillips, a commercial fisherman from Greenport, is one of those boat captains. Normally, fishermen are only allowed to take a certain quota of bunker, which are used by lobstermen and other fishermen as bait. Mr. Phillips said those restrictions may be voided during this crisis.

“Obviously, the ultimate goal is to get it cleaned up before they all die,” he said. “When they die they’re a terrible, stinky mess.”

Mr. Phillips told the News-Review he was rounding up a group of fishermen — as many as five or six boats — to harvest the fish using haul seines, scoop nets, or “basically whatever we can get them with.”

The harvest could begin as early as Saturday night.

Dead fish that turned up near the Riverhead Yacht Club Friday afternoon. (Credit: Melanie Drozd)

Dead fish that turned up near the Riverhead Yacht Club Friday afternoon. (Credit: Melanie Drozd)

Mr. Gobler said fish kills are not unusual, but they’re not seen as often in other parts of Long Island where the bunker group together to spawn.

“There’s very few places on Long Island where oxygen levels are going to zero for multiple hours,” he said. “That’s not normal.”

Mr. Gobler said nitrogen runoff likely fed this specific algal bloom, nicknamed “mahogany tide.” Shallow creeks and tributaries of the river are especially vulnerable to algae blooms because the nitrogen gets concentrated in one area.

Historically, the Peconic Estuary has had relatively low oxygen levels to begin with, Mr. Gobler said. With these blooms moving in, the River will “probably have oxygen problems through the summer,” he said.

“It’s going to hit low and no oxygen levels throughout the summer,” he said. “But there may not be the equivalent fish kills because … the fish will sense the low oxygen levels and turn around.”

psquire@timesreview.com

What Causes a  Fish Kill- (3)

05/06/15 1:31pm
05/06/2015 1:31 PM
Curtis Sliwa at a meeting in Greenport last November. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Curtis Sliwa at a meeting in Greenport last November. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

A day after Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller met with leaders of the Guardian Angels to establish a Riverhead chapter of the volunteer anti-crime group, Supervisor Sean Walter’s fellow Town Board members say they were blindsided by the effort and that bringing the Angels into town could exacerbate a negative image for downtown. (more…)

04/16/15 6:00am
04/16/2015 6:00 AM

To the editor:

The April 2 News-Review article, “Town Board looks to stymie solar district.” I was stunned by the comments made by Supervisor Sean Walter. It seems he wishes to eliminate solar farms as a permitted use in the Industrial C zone. Admittedly, I am not technically versed in zoning and uses in specific types of zoning but I do travel on Edwards Avenue often and I was so pleased to see land used for clean and renewable energy. I enthusiastically thought, good going Riverhead; for the first time you are making good use of parcels of land.  (more…)

03/19/15 11:13am
03/19/2015 11:13 AM
The state police barracks in Riverside used to be located east on Route 24, in the Red Creek area away from the hamlet center. (Credit: News-Review)

The state police barracks in Riverside used to be located east on Route 24, in the Red Creek area away from the hamlet center. (Credit: News-Review)

In response to outcry from town leaders in Southampton and Riverhead that the front lobby of the state police barracks in Riverside might go unmanned, state Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele are saying the issue has do with trouble hiring a dispatcher.

A dispatcher would typically man the front desk, the representatives say.

In the meantime, an officer has been filling in. (more…)

03/14/15 8:00am
03/14/2015 8:00 AM
The state police barracks in Riverside. (Credit: News-Review)

The state police barracks in Riverside. (Credit: News-Review)

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter is hoping to stave off what he says are impending plans by the state police to pull a desk officer from its Riverside barracks.

Mr. Walter sent a letter to Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) dated March 4 asking for the senator’s help to keep the barracks at 234 Riverleigh Avenue, near the Route 25 traffic circle, open to walk-in complaints and people who need assistance. (more…)

03/12/15 2:00pm
Supervisor Sean Walter and Anthony Coates. (File photos)

Supervisor Sean Walter and Anthony Coates. (File photos)

Anthony Coates, a former political adviser to Supervisor Sean Walter — who is up for re-election this fall — has been noncommittal on whether or not he’ll run for public office since the two have stopped working together.

And while Mr. Coates is still hesitating to commit to running for a Town Board position again (he failed to receive a Republican nomination for Town Board in 2013), he did say he’ll be screening for the Democratic nomination for supervisor to “explore the possibility of running.” (more…)