Tag Archive | "Southampton Town Trustees"

Estuary Program Eyes Ligonee Brook for Restoration

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Historically, Ligonee Brook in Sag Harbor has served as a migration path for alewife, a species of herring, and eels, which travel up the brook from Sag Harbor Cove to spawn in the fresh waters of Long Pond.

But in recent years, the lack of consistent water flow has become an issue in the brook. For that reason, the Peconic Estuary Program has earmarked almost $17,000 towards the research, engineering and design of a restored Ligonee Brook in an effort to re-establish the fish populations.

The Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt (FLPG) want to make sure this project — one of five fish path restoration proposals funded by $80,000 in grants secured by Peconic Estuary Program through the New York Department of Environmental Conservation — earns public support. According to FLPG vice-president Sandra Ferguson, one of those projects will ultimately be implemented through another $100,000 grant, and FLPG members want to do everything they can to make sure their project is considered a top priority.

They are so committed to the restoration, last week FLPG president Dai Dayton said that even if the project is not given funding for implementation, armed with the engineering schematics and research developed over the next two years, the organization would seek funding from the Southampton Town Trustees.

“We are going to make this happen,” said Dayton.

Last spring, the Peconic Estuary Program announced that Land Use Ecological Services had won the state bid to develop a comprehensive plan to restore Ligonee Brook and improve fish migration. Dr. Will Bowman will oversee the project, according to Ferguson, and over the next two years will develop and present his proposal for the brook.

The Ligonee Brook Diadromous Fish Passage Restoration will specifically develop a plan to restore drainage water flow, freshwater wetlands and the alewife and eel run at Ligonee Brook.

Other fish passage restoration proposals being developed through the funding are located in Southold, East Hampton, Shelter Island and Riverhead.

On Friday, October 7, Ferguson and FLPG member Priscilla Ciccariello reached out to the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee for its support.

While Ligonee Brook has traditionally served as a migration path for the fish, because of barriers — some natural, but mostly manmade — like the culvert under Brick Kiln Road and debris in the brook, Ferguson noted there is not always sufficient water flow to allow the migration.

“We, as the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, have cleaned the shores and the bed of the brook, we have cared for the creek, but this is an opportunity for a very serious restoration project that will restore the natural flow of the brook,” said Ferguson.

With no guarantees the project will be implemented, Ferguson said FLPG is reaching out to local civic groups and organizations to help raise public awareness about Ligonee Brook and its potential restoration.

“We want every level of government to understand this project has strong community support,” said Ferguson. “We want to be the voice of the Long Pond Greenbelt as this moves forward and we would like you to be with us.”

The CAC agreed to be a vocal organization in support of the project.

According to Ciccariello, one aspect of the Ligonee Brook restoration that makes it a viable contender for financing is that it is a digestible project, that wouldn’t likely take much funding to implement.

“But even if we don’t win that prize we will still have the schematics, which is quite a gift in itself,” she said.

Trustees Irked by Waterfront Plan

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By Claire Walla

For several years, Southampton Town officials have made attempts to create a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), but nothing ever came to fruition. This year, the town is confident plans to finally institute the plan will succeed. However, the Southampton Town Trustees — which have jurisdiction over all town waterways up to the high-water mark — want nothing to do with it.

“The LWRP delves into everything the trustees do,” said trustee Ed Warner. “It’s just going to complicate the whole process.”

At a trustee meeting last Monday, January 3, members voted to pass a resolution exempting the trustees’ jurisdiction from any proposed LWRP. According to the resolution, “the Trustees do not wish any town agency to include any lands or structures under trustee jurisdiction in any application to New York State, specifically any Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.”

LWRPs are administered and approved by the state. So, even though the planning document is prepared at the local level, a state representative will work with the town to analyze local land and water systems and ultimately form a comprehensive plan for future growth and development.

Town trustees worry that adding another layer of bureaucracy will merely elongate the time it takes them to make decisions.

“It could take years for a simple rule change,” Warner added. “Now, we can make a decision right away. For example, if we had a major coastal storm and 50 people needed sandbagging, [with the state involved] we wouldn’t be able to expedite that process.”

A Southampton Town steering committee has been created to discuss the prospect of implementing an LWRP. It is composed of Southampton Town Land Management officials, as well as Warner and town councilwoman Bridget Fleming.

“The town has no interest in changing the authority of the trustees,” Fleming said. But, she added, there are certain issues — like stormwater runoff — that bridge the divide between water and land regulations.

“Stormwater affects what the trustees do, but they can’t regulate that,” she said adding that this is one area where a comprehensive plan would come in handy.

Fleming said she welcomed hearing the trustees’ concerns, because the steering committee hopes to tease out any issues in order to implement a plan that has more perks than not.

“One objection [to the LWRP] is that it might introduce additional regulations,” she said. “This is important to consider, but we also need to look at how land-use regulation affects the quality of our waterways. [The LWRP] gives us an opportunity to consider that in a holistic way.”

At a meeting of the trustees on December 20, members heard from several trustees in neighboring districts with LWRPs of their own, like East Hampton and Southold. They also heard from Robert Herrmann, a consultant who studied the affects of these LWRPs.

Hermann explained that the LWRP has made many processes more cumbersome, such as issuing site-specific permits. He added that the town has to fill out pages and pages of compliance reviews and assessments, then wait for the Department of State approve them, or not.

“I don’t think that the Southold Town Board fully contemplated what they were adopting until it was adopted and they saw the results of it,” Herrmann said.

However, Fleming reiterated the benefits of such a plan.

“This is a big town, and we have an extensive waterway system. [Forming a comprehensive plan] is not going to happen naturally,” she said, and explained that the town welcomes state aid for such a complex project.

“An LWRP would provide a comprehensive plan for the waters,” she added. “And if it’s also a revenue source for grant money in the future, then that’s a good thing we shouldn’t reject out of hand.”

At this point, even though the trustees have opted out of being governed by a proposed LWRP, Fleming said the town will still work with the trustees as LWRP discussions continue.

“We still value the trustees’ opinions,” she said. “Even if they’re not regulated [by an LWRP], they’re going to help inform it.”

CONPOSH Forum Focuses On Water

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With a topic as wide-ranging as “water,” the focus of a Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor meeting turned to water quality for many in the crowd of over 30 who gathered at the First Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church on Sunday afternoon.

Panelists invited to the event were as varied as the topics discussed. Paddy South, the director of public relations for the Suffolk County Water Authority, Southampton Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer, East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny and Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister all attended, for the most part discussing what they were each working on in terms of what is arguably the East End’s most valuable resource — its water.

CONPOSH member Valerie Justin opened the forum by talking about the “critical need” to face the issue of stormwater runoff on the East End, as well as water quality in general, and oversight of valuable bodies of water, like those found on the Long Pond Greenbelt.

And with the exception of South, who focused on basic facts about the water authority, it was stormwater runoff and protecting natural resources that dominated the panelists’ presentations.

Larry Penny focused less on what the town was accomplishing, than what he felt residents should be wary of when it comes to water.

As natural resources director since 1984, Penny oversees some 410 nature preserves and helped author both the town’s comprehensive plan as well as a water resources plan.

“They don’t test enough and they don’t have enough study,” said Penny of the water quality on the East End, noting contaminants in water can cause disease. Penny did add the SCWA has been “leading the charge” in terms of conserving water and keeping it clean. However, he added, medical contaminants are a new challenge environmentalists must face. The drugs that people ingest can still be active, and may not be filtered out through sewage systems, said Penny. They can have wide ranging effects over time on the ecology and health in a community, he said.

Pesticides and nitrates, due to farming on the North Fork, he said, are also prevalent in the Peconic Estuary, and vector control and pesticide use also need to be monitored.

“We are still fighting things that have been put into the ground 30 years ago,” noted Penny, adding that the absence of bay scallops and the increase in the disappearance of eelgrass beds is directly connected to water quality.

“Why is the winter flounder population flat, zero,” asked Penny. “Because they like to breed in eel grass.”

Havemeyer, as a member of one of the oldest boards in the United States — the Southampton Town Trustees, which was founded in 1686 — is charged with protecting much of the water in Southampton.

One of the biggest issues the trustees contend with, he said, are dealing with development and protecting the wetlands in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The same principles used to protect saltwater can be applied to freshwater, said Havemeyer, including combating stormwater runoff, which Havemeyer and MacAllister agreed was one of the biggest threats to water quality on the East End.

Havemeyer advocated creating wetland buffers in any stormwater runoff area of concern as a natural filter.

MacAllister, as the Peconic Baykeeper, has been advocating for such a natural wetlands filter at Havens Beach for over a year now. On Sunday, he noted, as a Baykeeper initiated a testing cycle on the popular bathing beach was near completion, he expects the village will begin to address Havens Beach and other stormwater runoff sites as it moves forward with a comprehensive village stormwater runoff management plan.

 “Ninety percent of Long Island’s water bodies are considered impaired, meaning they do not support these kinds of uses,” said MacAllister of bathing, shellfishing and propagation of marine life as benchmarks for water quality. Road runoff, collecting a myriad of bacteria from pesticides, fertilizers, bacteria from pet and wild animal waste is primarily to blame, said MacAllister.

However, said MacAllister, it is not just the municipalities that are responsible for taking this task on. He noted the Baykeeper has a “bayscaping” program, focused on teaching East End residents how to care for their properties in an environmentally sensitive manner.

“We have to start employing this on an individual level, but also as a community,” said MacAllister.

 

 

Pondering the Ebb and Flow of Ligonee Brook

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When Southampton Town Trustee President Jon Semlear was a child growing up in Sag Harbor they called Ligonee Brook, also known as Ligonee Creek, Alewive Dreen.

“My whole life they called it the alewive dreen,” he said. “My experience growing up in Sag Harbor was there were always alewives traveling up the stream, particularly on the west side of the [Sag Harbor] turnpike where the stream comes to the road.”

Semlear, fellow Southampton Town Trustees Fred Havemeyer and Edward Warner, Jr., Southampton Town Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea, with photographer and writer Jean Held, members of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, the Group for the East End and the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee in tow, conducted an inspection of Ligonee Brook on Thursday, October 9 to assess its current condition.

In town politics the brook has been caught up in a debate over a proposed Sag Harbor Gateway Study, which, at its core suggests the rezoning of a little over half a dozen properties on the Sag Harbor Turnpike – including land that borders the brook. But for Semlear, and a number of others on the Thursday afternoon ramble, the excursion was more about familiarizing themselves with the brook, its history and about addressing what the trustees can do to ensure the brook’s health.

The brook is a part of the Long Pond Greenbelt, a system of ponds, swamps, streams and woods, which extends from Sag Harbor to Sagaponack. The greenbelt includes 30 freshwater ponds, as well as a number of swamp and marsh areas and Sagg Pond, a salt pond that occasionally lets out into the ocean. As Held noted on Wednesday, the Long Pond Greenbelt has a plethora of rare flora and fauna specimens as a result of its delicate ecosystem.

Ligonee Brook is first referenced in New York State records in January of 1803, according to a history of the brook in a record compiled by Held through Southampton Town documents and histories in local newspapers. In New York State records, “legonee creek or brook” is defined as a boundary marker to what the state referred to as the “port of Sagg Harbor.” 

According to Held, while often referred to as Ligonee Creek, Alewive Dreen, the Long Pond Dreen, or the Long Pond Drain, the proper name for the stream is Ligonee Brook, which she notes is what the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation calls the stream.

Throughout old issues of The Sag Harbor Express, the brook, in all its various identities is shown to be the site off great eel catches and alewive sightings, as the migratory species used the brook to travel from Sag Harbor Cove to Long Pond. As early as 1874, in local papers there were calls for Sag Harbor residents to roll up their sleeves and help clear debris – brush and leaves – from the brook during the dry season, as it would accumulate at levels that would block the flow of water during the times of year the water would run.

Whether the brook is still a part of the migratory patterns for alewives and eels has been a debated subject as of late, particularly when discussed in Southampton Town Hall as a part of the Gateway Study. There have also been questions raised as to whether the brook still runs with water, or if it has dried for good.

Robert Reid’s family has owned a parcel of land that now houses Reid Brothers Incorporated, an auto repair shop, for several decades. The Reid property is one of several being considered for re-zoning by the town under the Sag Harbor Gateway Study. For a majority of the parcels looked at in the gateway study, the town’s department of land management suggests a change in zoning from highway business, which allows large commercial enterprises to hamlet office, which would permit only smaller professional offices and retail locations.

Any business, like the Reid Brothers, that is already in place would be considered pre-existing, non-conforming and could operate business as usual even if the business changed hands as long as a change of use was not proposed.

At a Southampton Town Board hearing on the Gateway Study in September, Reid asked the board how Ligonee Brook – cited by a handful of residents and advocates in support of the gateway study – could be a viable breeding ground for a number of species if it was dry.

According to Reid, at one point the brook, which borders his property, was dry for 23 years, although he said it did start to run again when water was pumped from the Rowe Industries Superfund site nearby.

“But it miraculously stopped running this past winter,” said Reid.

Reid also believes the brook may have been man-made, although he said if that was the case it was likely around the time of the first settlement in Sag Harbor.

Held said the brook does run dry, but said it is a part of the natural ebb and flow of the brook, and said as early as last fall the brook was running. Held added outside influences, like the Sag Harbor Water Company which used Long Pond as a water source, did have an effect on the flow of water in the brook, although she said she did not believe the brook ever remained dry for a period as long as 20 years.

“I have no problems with making this creek do what ever we can to make it a real creek,” said Reid on Wednesday, noting his concerns with what have been discussed on the town level have less to do with Ligonee Brook and more specifically lie with what he sees as spot zoning of his family’s property. Reid said he would attend this Tuesday’s 6 p.m. Gateway Study public hearing at Southampton Town Hall.

According to Semlear, the trustees do have every intention of ensuring the brook’s flow is not interrupted by debris or build up of sand.

During the walk on October 9, the brook was in fact dry, although member of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt and trail leader Dai Dayton said she had personally seen the brook flowing last year. The walk, which began at the trail entrance at Mashashimuet Park and ended where Long Pond and the brook meet, was productive, said Semlear, who noted a number of trustees had yet to walk the brook.

“The alewive stream is in pretty good shape,” he said on Wednesday. “There are a few areas where debris should be removed so we can ensure during times of high water [alewives and eels] have the ability to make it up the pond. There is also some areas where we need to clear some sand out of the culvert.”

As a lifelong resident and trustee, Semlear said there were many times he observed the brook dry and many times where he saw it run fully. Regardless, he said, there is no question in his mind that Ligonee Brook is an essential part of the Long Pond Greenbelt as a whole.

“When you remove something from an ecosystem, it sets things out of balance,” said Semlear. “When the creek is running it has a productive, positive influence on the pond and Sag Harbor Cove on the other end. It is definitely a key element in the uniqueness of the Long Pond Greenbelt.”

And, according to Held, it is the ebb and flow of the brook that lends the area to a vast array of rare flora and fauna species, some of which would not be able to survive there if the level of water was constant.

“That is part of what makes them rare,” she said. “And that makes the area very interesting to me.”