A plan progresses
Carmans River Protection Plan draws crowd

Long Island Advance  March 31, 2011

One thing was clear during Tuesday night’s Brookhaven Town Board meeting; residents really loved their river. The public hearing for the draft Carmans River Watershed Protection Plan compelled nearly 60 residents and officials to fight, each in their own way, for its health until around 11 p.m.

But the outcome started the process; the passage by the town board of a resolution for a positive declaration of the draft plan, paving the way for a general environmental impact statement. “They closed the hearing but left it open for a month to receive public comment on the website,” said Brookhaven Planning Commissioner Tullio Bertoli who has been steering the course. “We’ll consolidate the comments. All the comments to date last night and going forward will be addressed as part of the process.” Towards the end of the evening, Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens and part of the study group, inserted new wording about invasive species, a contentious subject for those civics who worked on a three-year study regarding their presence and affect in the Yaphank Lakes. The invasives should be removed as long as the procedure is in compliance with state and local laws, he said. “I intend to take this matter forward and ask that the elimination of invasives be commenced as early as this summer.  The people of Yaphank have been stymied for three years. We all agree the invasives have got to go.”

Amper brought up other recommendations; that the town board, not the planning board should be the decision makers regarding the issue of transfer of development rights to industrial corriders and that the Pine Barrens transfer of development program had to be made viable. “If a court determined the taking of private property without proper compensation, then the Carmans River Plan should be sunset,” he said. “Any property owner who wants to sell its land should contact the town and county to see if it qualifies; anyone who doesn’t want to sell shouldn’t be required to give it up.” Amper had listened to the concerns of speakers like Jerry Perretti who touted thorough eminent domain laws.

While ABCO president MaryAnn Johnston called for a community-based plan with a six-month access period to town data, Johan McConnell, president of the South Yaphank Civic Association, who was not a voting member, but who attended the study group meetings, advocated for it. “You’ll hear the plan was done too quickly,” she said. “It was done in 100 days and they met once a week. Normally town committees meet once a month. They had 13 meetings, which was equivalent to a year’s study. Anyone who attended the meetings and wanted their report put in, they could be put in.” The 21 residents who attended were listed in February’s watershed management and protection plan.

One of the main concerns was nitrate levels. Councilwoman Connie Kepert (4th District) brought up a plethora of questions that stunned Supervisor Mark Lesko. Kepert cited data that showed generally low levels of nitrates and asked for a list of all the cache basins that discharge into the Carmans. Kepert also mentioned the invasive species work the civics had conducted for the county study on the Yaphank Lakes. “Ninety-eight percent of this is in my district,” Kepert said, stating she wanted her comments on record. “If you stop interrupting me, I can finish.” Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister said that nitrogen safeguards needed to be strengthened. “We’re seeing significant trends in nitrogen in groundwater,” he said, citing a Woods Hole study. “Suffolk County has been avoiding it for a couple of decades. The town has the authority to strengthen codes and wastewater discharge standards.”

DEC Regional Director Peter Scully, a study group member and one of the speakers admitted, “There’s a tension in needing to get this right and a tension in the need to advance it to protect the river. I’m concerned about the lengthy process and the time period before protections occur. It’s not enough to oppose the plan. Make suggestions to improve it. Let’s make it work.”