A terrific plan gets better!
Long Island Advance
April 7, 2011


On February 10, 2011, a Brookhaven Town-created Study Group submitted recommendations for a Carmans River Watershed Protection & Management Plan for the natural treasure which extends from Middle Island to Great South Bay.

The Plan would protect 9100 acres that flank the river, to limit the amount of pollutants that would otherwise compromise water and habitat quality. Brookhaven Town and Suffolk County would purchase about 1000 acres, while other land would be protected by transferring development rights away from the river watershed and away from residential communities. Development would be directed to commercial and industrial corridors. Housing costing in the low $200,000 range would emerge in downtown areas, where they are needed for our young workers and retired seniors.  The Plan was advanced by Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko and by Peter Scully, Commissioner of the New York State Pine Barrens Commission. Town and Commission Staff worked with a 24-member “Study Group” of stakeholders led by veteran Long Island Planner, Dr. Lee Koppelman.

Among the key recommendations for the Carmans River Plan was a reduction in nitrogen, a major source of pollution that comes from septic systems, fertilizers and run-off.

Sources of pollution would be eliminated under the plan, water quality monitoring conducted and contaminating land uses eliminated or strictly limited.

The Carmans River Plan has been hailed as a “model for responsible land use,” by planners, environmental and business leaders and opponents of continued sprawl. But some of the best suggestions came from the citizens of Brookhaven who testified at a March 29 public hearing at Brookhaven Town Hall. Their recommendations are likely to be incorporated into the final plan and will make a good plan even better.

For example, Yaphank citizens proposed prioritizing the elimination of invasive plants from the choked upper and lower lakes while protecting the health of the overall river.  They wanted assurances that the Carmans River Plan would endorse that goal. We agree.

Others wanted assurance that the transfer of development rights component of the plan would assure just compensation for landowners whose property could not be developed or not be developed fully. That is only fair and right.

A few farmers said they were open to a dialogue on how to prevent nitrogen from their farms from contaminating the river: A useful approach. And it was proposed that approval of development projects associated with the river protection plan should be considered not by the unelected town planning board, but instead by the elected town board. Everyone seemed to like that idea.

Of course there were the inevitable naysayers who were quick to grumble but slow to advance useful alternatives.  You can’t please everyone. All in all, though, the Carmans River Watershed Protection & Management Plan is getting better and better, thanks to the work of stakeholders and government alike and some thoughtful suggestions from private citizens. The plan will now undergo required environmental review. There will be more public hearings and with any luck, we should have a model land use plan for others to emulate, adopted later this year. Congratulations!

Richard Amper is the Executive Director of the Long

Island Pine Barrens.