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Nov 17, 2010 1:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Secures Grant, Intends To Restart Waterfront Revitalization Project

Nov 17, 2010 1:22 PM

After recently securing a $100,000 state grant, Southampton Town now has the funds to resurrect a more than decade-old waterfront revitalization project, according to Marty Shea, the chief environmental analyst for Southampton Town.

The ambitious project, which is expected to take at least three years to complete, seeks to reduce the amount of storm water runoff reaching local bays, amend the town code to limit future development along the water, and require that homes overlooking bays and creeks keep larger natural buffers. Those suggestions were reached under the town’s original Waterfront Revitalization Study, which was completed in 1994, though many have not yet been instituted because of budgetary constraints.

At the Hampton Bays Civic Association’s educational forum on Monday evening, titled “Crisis in Our Bays,” Mr. Shea said that with the grant money, the town will be able to revise the master plan for its vast waterfront. The funding was secured under the Environmental Protection Act.

He explained that an extremely expensive problem that the town must address is redirecting storm water runoff from local roads, so it no longer feeds directly into tributaries and bays. He pointed out that the high levels of nitrogen and low oxygen levels in the bays can be attributed to storm water runoff, much of which is routed from Sunrise Highway.

To remedy the situation, Mr. Shea said the town would consider “peeling back paved roads” with the intention of diverting runoff. He said the plan is also to remove roads and hardened structures near the coastline, opening public access there.

As part of its waterfront revitalization plan, the town also plans to look at zoning, specifically for land that is zoned resort waterfront business district. That zoning allows for marinas and water-based businesses. According to Mr. Shea, when this specific zoning was created, the town was not aware of the potential detrimental impact of marinas on both land and water. Under the plan, the town will revisit current zoning and create a new zoning distinction called the overlap zoning district, Mr. Shea said.

The overlap zoning district, he said, would force property owners to incorporate environmental planning with any development. Homeowners and business owners would have to limit the amount of pesticides and fertilizers that are used on their properties, and be asked to keep natural buffers.

The town also hopes to use the grant money to “soften” shorelines, namely by eliminating the use of sea walls and bulkheads, commonly referred to as hardened structures. The length of new docks would also be scrutinized, with Mr. Shea pointing out that long docks can damage underwater sea grass beds. Such practices, he said, should create more habits for marine wildlife, such as horseshoe crabs that lay their eggs on the shore.

The water quality of both Shinnecock and Quantuck bays were recently listed as “impaired” by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, after a high level of fertilizers and pesticides was found in the water. These chemicals, which also increase the levels of nitrogen in the water, can kill aquatic plants and marine wildlife that live close to the shoreline. Cesspools also contribute to the high levels of nitrogen.

Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, who attended Monday’s meeting, urged attendees to look toward incorporating “innovative technologies” to store human waste, as opposed to cesspools that often overflow into groundwater, eventually polluting bays.

Although Shinnecock and Quantuck bays are considered impaired, Charles deQuilldelf, a biologist with the Department of Marine Habitat Protection within the DEC, said the bays are closely scrutinized because shellfishing is permitted in both. In fact, he said the state uses the most stringent guidelines when testing water that supplies shellfish consumed by humans.

Still, he stressed that some creeks and tributaries in Southampton Town do not meet this standard, and those are being contaminated by storm water runoff from nearby roads.

“We’ve met the enemy, and the enemy is us,” Mr. deQuilldelf said. “We’re making slow progress.”

Robert DeLuca, the president of the Group for the East End, asked those in attendance to recognize their own roles in the degradation of the town’s water bodies. Specifically, Mr. DeLuca urged homeowners to shrug off the notion of having green lawns year-round, noting that homeowners use far too many fertilizers and pesticides that seep into local bays.

“You don’t need a carpet green lawn in February,” said Mr. DeLuca, who urged homeowners to allow sections of their land to be left natural.

“The good news is that the waters are resilient and forgiving,” Mr. McAllister added.

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$100,000 will get us a few new curbs, drainage grates, storm drains and dry wells IMO. Better than nothing, but any additional work must come from the Town budget, where there is little surplus as we understand it.

This "ambitious" project, anticipated for the last FIFTEEN years, better have capital accounts already in place, or it is a pipe dream IMO. [no pun intended !!!]

No more deficits, please!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Nov 17, 10 7:00 PM
I wonder where this $100,000 will get...lost

Cannot remember how many years this all started....maybe ten. I had called Town Trustees and told them the Town Dock at Wooley Pond was falling apart.
There were holes along the bulked that people could fall into. The soil was going under the bulkhead and shoaling along the dock. Scott Strough and Mr. Warner (the older gent.) came and agreed that it needed replacement. But...nothing was ever done. Yet they then dumped a ton of ...more
By c'mon now (46), southampton on Nov 17, 10 7:35 PM
$100,000 can restart the private road program that the town had in the 70's. Reapring and improving roads 1 by 1 and adding them into thehighway system. Stormwater management is not just water running down hill into bays/creeks, it is also any road near the coastline where th ewater will perc into the bays system. Stormwater needs to b expanded and aggressively pursued. Its a great start, my applause but dont get giddy over it, go after more federal dollars all the time...
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Nov 18, 10 7:14 AM