We must protect wildlife, but at what cost to us?

We’ve been covering a story so similar to others from the past, you might have thought it had been copied and pasted straight from the News-Review archives. We assure you it was not.

It’s a story on the desire of Wading River residents and Riverhead Town officials to see Wading River Creek dredged during a time of year when the work will not be undone by poor weather conditions.

It’s a sticky situation. And it’s something we find ourselves writing about over and over again, as dredging done in December is reversed by winter and spring storms refilling the work sites with sand each year.

Here’s the short version of the problem: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New York State DEC regulations confine dredging to the winter months to protect endangered species that breed in the spring and summer. Winter, however, is the time of year when the work is most likely to be destroyed by extreme weather conditions because recently moved sand does not have time to harden before the storms roll through.

In order to dredge at a time other than winter, townships must receive special permits from Fish and Wildlife and the DEC. They are not readily granted by agencies whose focus is protecting wildlife.

But here’s the question: Is protecting wildlife really more important than protecting beachfront properties and the people who live and play there? In Wading River Creek, where this past harsh winter has completely reversed the progress made by a December dredging project, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter says the now-shallow channel makes it impossible for rescue workers to launch a boat at low tide.

“This is not a recreational boat ramp,” he told the paper last week. “This is access to the Long Island Sound in case of an emergency.”

Town, state and federal lawmakers all say they are working with the DEC to revise dredging regulations so the work can be done at a time of year when it has a better chance of being successful.

We hope they find the way to a solution, because the current system is expensive and wasteful. We’re all for protecting wildlife, but we must strike a balance with the more important goal of protecting human life.