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Havens Beach Study to Continue Through Summer

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Havens Study Will Continue
By Marissa Maier

Members of the Stony Brook University research team, who have been testing for harmful levels of bacteria at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor for almost a year, say their work will continue through the summer. Chris Gobler, a Stony Brook Southampton associate professor and the director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program, has spearheaded the team with help from graduate and doctorate students, like Florian Koch.
Koch was on hand at a recent Coastal and Estuarine Research Program environmental symposium with a poster showing the testing data as of March 2009. The team, in conjunction with Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, has been studying the site since April 2008 and say the data they have collected is alarming.
“I think the data speaks for itself … The water quality in this area is being negatively affected, but this isn’t a new issue,” said McAllister. “Hopefully, this report will place a spotlight on Havens and be a call to action for the village and the harbor committee.”
According to data presented by Koch at the symposium, levels of harmful bacteria have exceeded healthy thresholds for bathing and shell fishing throughout the year. From April 2008 to early April 2009, testing from the receding water stations located in the bay showed bacteria levels were above adequate standards for shell fishing 31 percent of the time during testing and 44 percent of the time for bathing thresholds. These numbers pertain to results collected from three testing stations set-up in the water.
At three “source” stations — which consist of a ditch, a culvert leading to the beach and a steady stream of water flowing from the beach into the bay — levels were even higher. When averaging the whole year, the source station surpassed healthy standards 70 percent of the time for shell fishing and 60 percent of the time for bathing.
Because the source stations indicated more frequent high bacterium levels than the receding water stations, Gobler said his team studied the source stations to ascertain where the bacterium was coming from. That research is ongoing.
Koch and his fellow researchers tested the beach on a monthly to bi-monthly basis, but did responsive testing after heavy rainfalls. The ditch, or the first “source” station, collects storm water run-off for a 275-acre area, said McAllister, through a complicated network of piping. According to McAllister, the water collected at the ditch, seeking the lowest elevation, then flows into Havens Beach by way of the culvert. Gobler added that it is possible the ditch is also subject to ground water seepage.
As the Stony Brook team has been conducting their research, Suffolk County has been testing the waters of Havens Beach.
“By law, the county tests Havens and all other beaches on a weekly basis,” said Sag Harbor Village Mayor, Greg Ferraris. “Suffolk County has never issued a directive to close the beach.”
McAllister said the discrepancy between the county’s and Stony Brook’s results could be attributed to the Stony Brook team’s responsive testing after heavy rainfall. He noted that contaminates are more likely to flow into the ditch when it rains, but in drier weather are likely to stay put.
Village planner Richard Warren, who also operates an environmental consulting firm, said the discrepancy could also be attributed to different testing methodologies. He added that he would like to sit down and review side by side the county’s results and the Stony Brook results, with the help of Chris Gobler.
“With Kevin [McAllister] and Chris [Gobler], I hope we can set aside a testing protocol and start having a dialogue,” said Warren.
Village officials said they weren’t contacted before the yearly results were presented at the symposium and felt this went against a communications protocol established by both parties.
“We expected once the testing was complete to meet and discuss the findings,” Ferraris noted. “[We hope] to review the data and come up with a plan of action.”
Although the Stony Brook team planned to test for only a year, Koch said they would continue through the summer with no fixed end point in mind. Gobler added that the team believes it is important to continue monitoring the site and he also wishes to set up testing sites to the east and west of the beach.
McAllister noted that beyond testing, actual measures would need to be implemented in the future.
“Havens Beach and this ditch is a problem,” he said. “But developing this data will hopefully lead to a remediation project. It is going to cost money to deal with this and I recognize the challenges the village is facing. Are they going to be able to finance a project that is going to eliminate this pollution problem?”

Flood Map Source of Confusion

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The recent implementation of new flood maps by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is confusing for homeowners, as well as village and town officials. Many have found their threat of flooding has been reduced, while others find they are newly in a flood zone.

Jeff Sander, a North Haven Village resident, was in a high-risk zone for flooding before the new maps were issued last November, but now his home has been moved to a lower-risk zone, like many property owners in Sag Harbor.

Sander said he received a notice from the Town of Southampton suggesting he look online at the new maps. In that letter the town intended to inform residents that there have been some changes to the flood zones and recommended residents decide if they wanted to purchase flood insurance prior to the adoption of the final maps, “due to certain grandfathering provisions.”

Sander is one of many in the area still struggling to find out what that will mean when he gets the insurance bill he is expecting in the next couple months.

Last week, Southampton Town Stormwater Manager Walter Bundy, at the request of councilwoman Nancy Graboski, held a meeting with representatives of FEMA, regarding the new Federal Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) in order to ask for some clarification and an extension of the February 4, 2009 deadline for appeals. At the meeting, it was decided that appeals for homeowners will be extended to next Wednesday, February 25.

Sag Harbor village planner Richard Warren said in an email to Sagaponack village officials, that the FEMA representatives at last week’s meeting will be taking some of the concerns from the local municipalities back to Washington for further discussion, and that more public outreach might be necessary, “especially with insurance carriers.”

“It takes us two years to process a 10-lot subdivision,” Graboski said during a work session prior to that meeting, “We have a significant comprehensive project so that is really not enough time.”

Many people like Sander who live on the water, seem to have been spared, according to George Simonson, an insurance agent in Sag Harbor.

Simonson said the village received “better zones that they deserved.” He said there are fewer homes in the high elevation flood zones now than there were before the new FEMA maps in November.

Simonson said the cost of federal flood insurance for one year should be around $352 or “almost a dollar a day.” That, he said, would cover up to $250,000 for a single home and $100,000 of the contents.

The problem with that, he explained, is that most of the homes on or near the shoreline in the area are valued much higher than $250,000. He said homeowners who want their full home covered would need to take out additional insurance through excess and surplus lines markets, for example through Lloyds of London.

Those who live in the flood plain, explained Aram Terchunian, a Coastal Geologist for First Coastal out of Westhampton Beach, usually carry four types of insurance: flood, excess coverage (for the remaining value of the home over $250,000), wind and storm insurance, and homeowners insurance.

He said for homeowners who would now be included in the flood zone, the flood insurance premium will stay the same or be reduced, but the three other types of insurances are “likely to increase.”

Sander said that even though his home has been taken from the highest risk zone and moved back into a lower risk zone, and the insurance is not required, he will maintain his coverage.

Simonson said the cost of insurance for those living in Sag Harbor should go down, or, at the very least, remain the same as it was before the new maps.

Eileen Kenna, a Shinnecock Hills resident, received the same notice as Sander. She said that her home wasn’t in a flood zone before and by looking at the maps online, her home still remains outside the flood plain line.

“I went on the website and I am not in the flood zone,” Kenna said, “So I am not going to get flood insurance.”

Kenna said that just a few years ago, her homeowners insurance was dropped because her home is near a flood plain. Fortunately, she said, she was able to obtain new homeowners insurance from an alternative company.

“They messed up in New Orleans, when the hurricane hit,” she said, “so now they are doing all this to cover themselves.”

Simonson agrees. He said now, in that portion of the country, there are some discrepancies over who is going to cover the homes that were affected by flooding.

Now FEMA is attempting to avoid a similar incident happening on Long Island, if such a situation should occur.

Sag Harbor village planner, Rich Warren said he believes the issues are complex, and he is certain there will be “more to come.”


You can check your property at www.suffolknyfloodmaps.com.


Planning for Floods in North Haven

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As the tides change, apparently so do the flood plains. The last time the flood zones were assessed in the village of North Haven 145 houses were in a high risk flood zone; now, in the most recent assessment, only 20 homes are in the zone.
“That’s an 86 percent reduction of houses on the flood plain,” said North Haven Environmental Planning Consultant Rich Warren at a village board meeting there on Monday. Warren gave a presentation using the new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps indicating where standards have changed and which houses are considered vulnerable along the coast in North Haven.
“These were surprising changes,” Warren said, “They [FEMA] are predicting what a 100-year storm might do – if it would be something like the 1938 hurricane.”
Warren explained that all the work for the past flood maps were compiled using an old data system – NGDV 1929 — which was less accurate and has been updated to a new, digital data system – NAS 1988.
“The land didn’t change, the reference point changed,” said Warren who added that the new reference point for the flood maps is down one foot, which has reduced the number of homes in the flood plain in some places like North Haven. But in other places, like Sagaponack, he noted, the number of homes in the flood zone have risen from 46 to 119 largely due to beach erosion and damage from significant storms that have occurred in the past.
Sag Harbor Village, Warren said, has seen a similar reduction of homes in the flood plain, from 179 to 46 — a 47 percent reduction.
The presentation Warren gave the North Haven board was put together by FEMA and given last month to building inspectors and other town officials in Southampton. Warren said that FEMA hired a Virginia firm to conduct an extensive study on Long Island.
Warren explained that the “special flood hazard area” or “base flood” is commonly known as the 100- year flood plain, but can more accurately be thought of as an area that has a 1 percent chance of experiencing a flood in any given year. Warren noted that the chance of a base flood happening is 26 percent in a 30-year period.
Somes in the V zones – zones, which are at highest risk of a flood in North Haven — must be above the base flood elevation plus an additional two feet as required by State law. Homes in an A zone are less at risk than a V zone property.
“Those in zone X are the least likely to experience a flood,” Warren said for homes further away from the shoreline in North Haven.
“They [FEMA] are encouraging people not to drop their flood insurance even if they are no longer in the floodplain,” Warren said and noted that the maps only rely on computer modeling.
During the meeting, North Haven trustee Jim Smyth asked Warren, “What’s happening to my bar?”
Smyth’s business, The Corner Bar is right on a flood plain line, bordering to zone X.
Warren said it was “worth looking into” because it is right on a floodplain line. Warren also noted that the site – http://rmc.mapmodteam.com/RMC2/Counties_Suffolk.htm –
is being set up so residents and business owners can enter their addresses and the site will accurately depict in which flood zone a particular property is located.

Filming in North Haven:
Also on Monday night, the village board adopted a new local law for filming in the village and set a public hearing for January 6 at 5 p.m.
Two months ago at their regular monthly meeting, the village trustees in North Haven were concerned with the wording of a draft local law concerning filming in their area. Last time, deputy mayor Jeff Sander said the board should consider adding a more descriptive definition of filming for the area and also recommended adding more uses for the methods of viewing the footage. Sander also questioned the requirements on filming for educational purposes and said he believed permits should only be required for commercial projects.
The draft law was sent back to the drawing board for village attorney Anthony Tohill to reconsider. Tohill decided not to change the draft legislation and it was presented on Monday night, in its original form.
The new law requires a permit to be obtained from the village of North Haven first, before any filming may take place in the village. The fine for failing to obtain a permit can be up to $1,000. The price of the permit, however, varies on the size and scope of the project.