Tag Archive | "New York State Department of Environmental Conservation"

New York Legislators Call For Two-Year Delay on DEC Plan to Eradicate State’s Mute Swan Population

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Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

New York officials have introduced legislation that would impose a two-year delay on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to eradicate the state’s mute swan population by 2025.

Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor, the bill would halt the DEC plan, which was introduced in December, and require the DEC to illustrate the “actual damage” the mute swan population causes to the environment or other species before exterminating the birds altogether.

“Wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not unanimously agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the [DEC] to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

Mute swans are a species of swan named “mute” because they are less vocal than other swans. Native to Europe and Asia, they were brought to North America in the late 1870s due largely to their aesthetic appeal. Initially introduced in New York as ornaments on the estates of the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, mute swans were present in the wild by the turn of the 20th century.

According to the DEC, the mute swan population had increased to about 2,000 statewide by 1993, peaked around 2,800 in 2002 and is now estimated at about 2,200, most heavily concentrated on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” stated Mr. Thiele. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem.”

The DEC says the non-native species causes a variety of environmental problems, “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation.”

Although opposed to the DEC plan, local ecologist Tyler Armstrong said there are ecological benefits to reducing the population. “It would help rare native waterfowl, as mute swans defend large nesting territories and exclude other birds from nesting, as well as competing with native birds for aquatic vegetation, like eelgrass,” he said.

The DEC has conducted “mute swan control activities” since 1993, but not to the extent permitted by the new management plan, which will include shooting free-ranging swans on public lands and private lands (with owner consent) and live capture and euthanasia.

North Haven resident Richard Gambino, professor emeritus at Queens College, said the DEC’s reasons for exterminating the swans are scientifically flawed.

“Everything affects the environment. The question is, do we have a sufficient reason, a necessary reason to kill them off, to exterminate them—and I don’t think we have one here,” he said, calling the plan “extreme.” The aggression shown by swans is evident in all mammals when they feel threatened and it’s arbitrary to call a species “alien” when it has been present for over 130 years, he added.

“If you’ve got a system such as nature—which is the most extreme system, with countless variables changing just about every second—we’re very limited in our ability to predict it,” he said, referring to the chaos theory.

Comments can be sent to the DEC by email to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Swan Plan” in the subject line by February 21.

DEC Releases Pesticide Pollution Prevention Strategy

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Late last month, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released a draft pollution prevention strategy for pesticide use on Long Island.

The proposed Pesticide Pollution Prevention (P2) Strategy proposed five actions to reduce threats to water resources from existing pesticide-related sources and prevent potential contamination from new sources.

According to the DEC, the purpose of the P2 Strategy is to enhance the protection of Long Island’s groundwater and surface water resources from pesticide-related contamination and thus prevent potential adverse effects on human health while continuing to meet pest management needs of farms, residents and businesses.

The DEC developed the P2 Strategy in response to concerns over the detection of pesticides in the groundwater over time at various locations on Long Island.

The P2 Strategy would start with a DEC pesticide assessment including an evaluation of the chemicals’ location, frequency and concentration on Long Island, as well as their reported use, and prioritization for potential preventive measures and available alternatives.

The P2 Strategy also calls for convening a Technical Review and Advisory Committee (TRAC) by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders involved in pest management and water quality protection on Long Island — state and local health departments and other governmental agencies, agricultural, commercial and other sectors that use pesticides, pesticide businesses, environmental groups, and academia — to partner with the DEC in implementing pest management pollution prevention measures.

Under the proposed P2 Strategy, the DEC would work to integrate pollution prevention measures including best management practices, water quality protection and enhanced monitoring of groundwater into pest management efforts.

In a press release issued last week, New York State Assemblyman Thiele encouraged anyone concerned with the health of Long Island’s groundwater resources to attend an April 3 public meeting on the proposal. That will be held at the Suffolk County Community College eastern campus in Riverhead from 7 to 9 p.m. with officials from the DEC available for queries from 6 to 7 p.m.

Through April 30 comments can also be emailed toLongIslandStrategy@gw.dec.state.ny.us or by fax to 518-402-9024. Comments can also be mailed to Scott Menrath, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Materials Management, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233.

“The East End of Long Island’s economy is dependent upon a healthy and productive environment,” said Thiele. “With Suffolk County being New York’s largest revenue-producing agricultural region, we need to ensure that our farms and vineyards can still produce economically sustainable crops yield. At the same time, we also need to preserve ground and surface water quality to help support our commercial and recreational fishing and shellfishing industries. We need workable solutions for managing pesticide use that won’t harm our economy or environment.”

For more information, please visit DEC’s website at

http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/87125.html.

Diesel Fuel Spill Reported in Sag Harbor

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Sag Harbor Village Police received two reports of diesel fuel spilling from a vessel docked at the Sag Harbor Yacht Club last week, the latter prompting calls to the United States Coast Guard, which located the departing vessel in Gardiners Bay.

On Wednesday, July 11, Sag Harbor Village Police said they received a call reporting “a slight fuel spill,” at the yacht club. According to the incident report, police spoke with Darrin Dutoit, the captain of the motor yacht NCH who told them two-to-three gallons of diesel fuel spilled out of the fuel vent. Dutoit was issued a uniform traffic ticket by village police for violating village code.

However, on July 12, another caller phoned village police to report the same vessel was discharging diesel fuel again, prompting police to call Sag Harbor Village Harbor Master Bob Bori and the United States Coast Guard after learning the yacht had already left the Sag Harbor Yacht Club. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) was also called.

According to the incident report filed with police, “a large amount” of diesel fuel was in the water. The Coast Guard located the boat off Cedar Point in East Hampton.

According to Bori, who said he believed about 10-gallons of diesel fuel had been spilled during the incident, the Coast Guard boarded NCH and said they would conduct an formal investigation into what occurred. The Coast Guard team was unavailable as of press time to discuss the incident.

Bori added that the NYSDEC did issue a summons.

According to the incident report, the Sag Harbor Yacht Club immediately began cleanup procedures. The Coast Guard also sent in its spill response team to deal with the situation, said Bori.

Bori said while he could not confirm the cause of the spill, he believed the rear tank could have been filled to capacity with fuel leading to excess fuel spilling out of the fuel vent. The other possibility for how an incident like this would occur, he said, was if a transfer was being made from one fuel tank to another.

According to Bill Fonda, a spokesman with the NYSDEC, the Coast Guard was leading the investigation, but he believed as much as 80-to-100 gallons could have been spilled off the vessel.

On Wednesday morning, Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait said he was called by the Breakwater Yacht Club after the second spill occurred, the youth sailing program director seeing fuel in the water.

“It was pervasive in the harbor that day,” said Tait. “You could smell it.”

Sag Harbor Resident Faces Possible DEC Fines for Alleged Clear Cutting of Phragmites

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A Sag Harbor resident is potentially facing thousands of dollars in fines from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). This comes after she allegedly cleared a swath of phragmites and marsh shrubs on the edge of her Oakland Avenue property that faces Otter Pong in Sag Harbor.

According to NYSDEC spokesman Bill Fonda, in early August his department received a complaint through New York Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.’s office about a resident who cleared vegetation to the border of Otter Pond.

The agency investigated the site on August 10, according to Fonda, and observed that a 50-foot-by-90-foot section of the property, containing primarily phragmites and some high marsh shrubs had been cut to grade.

As of last week, a notice of violation was being drafted to the owner of the property, Claudette Romano. The violation carries the potential of a $10,000 a day fine plus the cost of tidal marsh restoration said Fonda.

He added that the homeowner has 30 days to respond to the NYSDEC, which will ask that she come in for a conference to discuss the situation.

Attempts to reach Romano were unsuccessful.

According to Fonda, the potential fine is not uncommon. He said the tidal wetlands unit of the NYSDEC “probably issues the most permits of any DEC unit.”

“There are certainly over a thousand permits issued a year,” added Fonda, noting the unit also leads the agency “in the amount of violations issued.”

“It comes as a consequence of being on an island surrounded by wetlands,” said Fonda. “From our viewpoint, this is an ongoing investigation.”

The Mashashimuet Park Board, which owns the property directly surrounding Otter Pond, has worked for the better part of a decade to obtain a NYSDEC permit to prune phragmites around Otter Pond.

Last week, park board president Jean Irvine said the park board has abided by its permit and in no way had anything to do with the cutting at the 36 Oakland Avenue parcel.

“We are investigating the situation,” said Irvine, affirming it appears that some of the cutting occurred on park property.

“The park didn’t cut it and we are taking every step possible to ensure things are corrected,” she said.

According to the Sag Harbor Village code, approval would not just be required from the NYSDEC, but also from the village, for any cutting of this nature. It states that no clearing, digging or dredging can occur within 150-feet of wetlands without a permit, and any clearing, or use of herbicides requires a setback requirement to the wetlands of 50-feet.

According to Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, that 50-foot setback requirement is actually less than what you see required in most communities, including Southampton Town. East Hampton Town, like Sag Harbor, only requires the 50-foot setback.

A violation of this village code carries a fine of no more than $1,000, although once cited by the village a homeowner can be charged for each consecutive day the clearing stands without re-vegetation.

Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt did not return calls for comment.

Ferry Road Developers Seek Board’s Guidance

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The developers of a controversial waterfront project in Sag Harbor approached the village planning board last week to ask why they should have to answer certain questions about the impact the project may have on water quality and shellfish in Sag Harbor Cove. They also asked for more specifics on how they should develop alternative plans for the proposed 18-unit condominium project.

On Tuesday, November 25, Kim Gennaro, director of planning for Freudenthal and Elkowitz, the firm handling the environmental review for the developers of the luxury condo project known as Ferry Road, approached the board with a list questions.

In a letter to the board, Gennaro brings up four points of contention. Using both baseline and seasonal water quality data that are already available, the board has asked the developers to employ a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) method of testing to determine if the project may cause any potential contamination to Sag Harbor Cove.

Gennaro said while she does not object to providing the baseline and seasonal water quality results available for the area, she was concerned about the prospect of her client having to perform its own water quality analysis, given this is an area already developed.

Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Richard Warren maintained that the analysis should be completed, noting members of the public specifically asked for it. He added that the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) backs up this request by the planning board.

“My concern is to make sure the questions that have been asked by the public are responsibly responded to by the applicant,” he said.

The board has also asked East End Ventures to analyze the effect of the construction of 18 proposed accessory boat slips on shellfish habitats in the area.

Gennaro argued that the NYSDEC would perform their own analysis of this project as it related to the docks and wondered if the board would instead accept their findings, rather than make her clients perform their own study.

Warren reminded the board that the NYSDEC would only be able to approve the project after the planning board was done with its own review, and therefore, the board should have its own research to look at.

“The burden is unfortunately on the applicant to get the resources,” noted village attorney Anthony Tohill. He added that East End Ventures must make “an honest, reasonable, and intelligent effort” to produce what the planning board needs to come to their decision. 

Adding that the project is fairly controversial locally, Warren noted “the quality of these responses is going to have to be very high” and that the public will be paying attention to the actions of the developer, as well as the village and its planning board.

Gennaro did score one win, in that the planning board agreed that a study conducted by Dr. David Bernstein, Director of the Institute of Long Island Archaeology on archeological artifacts on the waterfront site was acceptable, as long as it is approved by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

East End Ventures must also submit alternative plans to the planning board, and last Tuesday, Gennaro said she wanted more specifics on what those alternatives should entail. The board has asked for alternative architectural designs, an alternative layout including the location of the condos on the site, an alternative that reduces the size and the scale of the project and an alternative that reduces the number of grade changes and retaining walls needed for the project.

She added that it was her concern that once the board begins exploring alternatives, it could become a never-ending process.

“We were specifically imprecise,” added Warren, noting that the alternatives should be designed based on the research the applicant does on potential adverse impacts. If an impact can’t be mitigated, he said, it should be the subject of an alternative.

“During the study of the project, only then will we be able to come up with the alternatives because right now we are blind,” said board member Jack Tagliasacchi. “I don’t even have a plan. I don’t know the impacts on anything.”

“The alternative portions of [the environmental review] is going to be of huge importance,” said Tohill. “The meetings have not happened yet, but having 39 years of experience, I can hear the public now and there is going to be a lot of discussion about alternatives.”