Carmans River Study Group votes on final recommendations

By Jennifer Gustavson | February 5, 2011 in Featured Stories, News

The Carmans River Study Group voted Friday on its final recommendations to protect the watershed, including a new list of properties that should be considered for open space acquisition and water quality standards.

The group voted in favor of a water protection measure, suggested during the public comment section of the meeting by Trout Unlimited president Doug Swesty, that would ban the use of pesticides on town-owned property within the Carmans River watershed.

The group also approved a 2.5 milligram per litter nitrate standard for development within the Pine Barrens jurisdiction and a 4.5 milligram per litter nitrate standard for the rest of the river’s watershed. The standards determine how much nitrogen is released from septic systems and sewage treatment plants.

Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister was the only person to vote in opposition and said the 4.5 milligram per litter nitrate standard “falls short off the mark when it comes to protecting groundwater relative to surface water protection.”

Prior to the vote, Mr. McAllister asked how the standard was determined. Town officials said it came from Bill Spitz, regional water manager for the Department of Environmental Conservation, who replied, “It wasn’t me.”

Long Island Builders Institute representative Bob Wieboldt then said the determination was made because a 4.5 milligram standard is “reasonable.”

“It’s not just science; it’s economics, too,” Mr. Wieboldt said, adding large developments can meet the 2.5 milligram standard through sewage treatment plants, but the cost for smaller developments to reach that standard would be “too expensive.”

Mr. McAllister called the reasoning “arbitrary” and said the standard should be based on scientific data.

Environmentalists have argued that pending development projects located within the Carmans River watershed would negatively impact the nearly 10-mile-long river.

The study group agreed to recommend that the Town Board pursue acquisition of several parcels within the river’s watershed for preservation of open space. If landowners refused, then the study group recommends that the Town Board rezone the parcels to five-acre residential zoning, which would deter high-density development.

Added to the list is Suffolk County-owned land in Yaphank, but only if it’s declared as surplus by the Legislature.

The parcel is part of the controversial mixed-use Legacy Village project, where an environmental impact study is already underway.

Also added to the list are two proposed housing developments in Middle Island: the Sam Glass property, which is slated for a 66-unit housing project; and Sandy Hills, where a 135-unit housing development is proposed.

Middle Island civic president Tom Talbot voiced opposition during the public comment section of the meeting and said since the projects are located north of Route 25, they should not be included on the list.

“These two projects were identified as key elements in the Middle Island Land Use Plan as part of a walkable downtown [development],” he said.

The ranking system that determined the list, as well as the maps to be included in the Carmans River Watershed Comprehensive Plan, will be completed at the study group’s final meeting scheduled for Wednesday at noon.

The final draft will be presented to the Town Board during work session Thursday.