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Long Island Sound

By Katelyn Winter

Water, sun, sand and rocks. West Meadow Beach in Setauket is made up of simple components, but stop by any day of the week, any hour of the day, and you’ll see a symphony of activity going on.

The 1,100-foot waterfront off Trustees Road is where beachgoers of all walks of life go — and some go just to walk! There is a wide two-mile trail that goes through an 88-acre wetlands preserve, where visitors can explore on bike or foot the beauty of the marsh area. At around the midpoint of the trail is the Dr. Erwin J. Ernst Marine Conservation Center, which features a small dock and beautiful views.

The trail is a popular spot for people looking to up their step counts, but this Town of Brookhaven beach is popular because it presents the opportunity for a wonderful day outdoors, no matter what you’re looking to do.

Purchasing a parking pass or paying a daily fee is necessary, and you can visit the website at www.brookhaven.org to find out more about what you’ll need to bring and how much you’ll have to pay. Regardless, the price is small compared to the summer of beach-day adventures it will unlock. 

“People love the sandbars,” says Jack Rachek, a town lifeguard working at West Meadow. “It’s our main attraction.” When low tide comes and the sandbars appear, you can expect to see young children and their parents heading out to wade in the shallow water and dig in the soft sand. Because the beach is part of the Long Island Sound, there aren’t big waves, and it’s small enough to keep that familiar hometown vibe.

Another lifeguard, Brittany, says she loves how “relaxed it is. There aren’t many saves; it’s just about keeping an eye out for the kids.” Lifeguards are on duty through Labor Day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends, so you can always be sure there is someone watching your children in the water and out. West Meadow is a beach for families. In addition to the calm waters, there are two playgrounds, checkerboard tables, a gazebo for shady picnics and a water sprinkler park.

Those features are why so many Three Village residents have happy memories of days spent at West Meadow. Beyond what the beach itself has on its grounds, though, there is so much that the people who work to make West Meadow the mecca of summer activity that it is have in store.

“People love the sandbars. It’s our main attraction.”

—Jack Rachek

Nancy Grant, of Friends of Flax Pond, is one of those people. She and her team of volunteers are working hard on the species conservation of the diamond-backed terrapin turtle, whose numbers are way down. “I have wonderful volunteers,” says Grant, who explained that while the turtles nest in the marshlands it is illegal to touch or pick them up. If you are interested in helping the diamond-back terrapins, there are meetings for new volunteers on the weekends, usually at around 9 a.m. Email ngrant@fpf.org for more information on how you can make a difference through volunteering.

The diamond-back terrapins aren’t the only cause you can support, though! Citizen Ranger meetings and beach clean-ups are scheduled for the summer, and for information on those or any other program you should email the park ranger, Molly Hastings, at mhastings@brookhaven.org, or call 631-751-6714.

With so much going on at West Meadow, it is amazing how relaxed the beach environment really is. “It’s a great lunchtime escape,” says beachgoer Jeff, “and it’s an awesome windsurfing beach in the fall.” Indeed, outside the green flags that indicate safe swim areas, you’ll see lots of people enjoying the water in different ways.

In recent years, paddle boarding has become a popular way to exercise and enjoy the tranquility of being out on the water. Ocean kayaking is another way to get on the water without actually getting in it.

For those who are looking to get in the water, you should stay between the green flags, and be sure to leave the inner tubes, rafts and snorkel gear at home. And for kids who still need to brush up on their swimming skills, or even teens and adults who want to improve, you can actually take swimming lessons at West Meadow Beach with certified Red Cross instructors. Session III starts on Aug. 1 and lasts for two weeks. You can learn more by calling 631-281-2866 or visiting the beach’s website.

West Meadow Beach is a great place to have fun, but it’s also a great place to learn — whether you want to be able to do the front crawl or learn more about wildlife and conservation. The beach and trail are speckled with informative signs about the beach’s ecosystem and the animals that thrive in it. West Meadow Beach is a beloved Three Village attraction, and because of that, there are so many local groups, like Friends of Flax Pond and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, that want to see it stay clean, safe and hospitable for people and wildlife.

As she went on her daily jog down the trail at West Meadow, a resident named Eileen stopped to tell me why she loved this beach. “It’s a wonderful place to grow up,” she smiled, “And it’s a wonderful place to keep nature as it is. As you go down this trail, there are over twenty species of birds you can see. It’s a very inexpensive pass for such a great summer.”

Whether your favorite part is being in the water or walking along the shore, this beach holds a special place in the hearts of those who visit it all year round. And that’s why West Meadow is a treasure among us.

Author Katelyn Winter is a rising junior at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.,  majoring in English and creative writing. She is from Stony Brook and hopes to one day work in the publishing industry.

Boats cover Northport Harbor during last year’s event.Photo from Bob Slingo

Centerport Yacht Club will be hosting the second annual Let’s Take a Veteran Sailing event on Saturday, July 30. The event was created by SailAhead, a nonprofit organization that works to support and heal wounded veterans.

Sailboats will come from near and far to join the fleet of 45 boats. With the support of American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244, 140 registered veterans, mostly from Long Island, will attend this event. The purposes of the event is to spread post-traumatic stress disorder awareness throughout the community, as well as spread awareness of the SailAhead program so that more wounded veterans can be helped.

The sailing event will last four hours and the flotilla will sail on the Long Island Sound.

Shanna Brady won two national championships with the University of Maryland

Shanna Brady has been named the new assistant coach at Hofstra University. Photo from Shanna Brady

By Desirée Keegan

A local lacrosse standout with two national championships under her belt is hoping to make a splash on the coaching side of things.

After serving as an assistant coach at Long Island University last year, Shanna Brady has joined the ranks of Hofstra University, serving as assistant coach of the Pride under six-year head coach Shannon Smith.

“Shanna was the perfect candidate,” Smith said. “She brings a lot to the table and is going to help get Hofstra to the next level. She’s very passionate about the game of lacrosse, she loves teaching the student-athletes and she has a wealth of knowledge with her playing career — winning two national championships and being a four-year starter—so that experience she can share with the players, and help develop our defense.”

Shanna Brady competes for the United Women’s Lacrosse League’s Long Island Sound. Photo from Shanna Brady
Shanna Brady competes for the United Women’s Lacrosse League’s Long Island Sound. Photo from Shanna Brady

Brady, a native of Smithtown and graduate of St. Anthony’s High School, graduated from the University of Maryland in 2015. She reached championship weekend all four years of her college career and totaled 75 ground balls, 46 caused turnovers and 20 draw controls during her 92 games played. Brady also served as a coach with the Long Island Express Lacrosse Club from 2011 to 2014, and was a two-year member of Maryland’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee during her undergraduate career.

“I always knew I wanted to be coaching,” Brady said. “Lacrosse is such a huge part of my life and I’ve always wanted to be around a lacrosse atmosphere. Hofstra is an incredible university and they have a group of talented athletes and the potential.”

After graduating, she ran into an assistant coach at LIU Post that was leaving, and was able to land that job.

“She was a great person, very sincere, a true competitor, and she has tremendous knowledge of the sport,” said LIU Post head women’s lacrosse coach Meghan McNamara. “She was excited to coach. That’s what drew me to her.”

While there, Brady was also in charge of recruiting, emails and organizing events.

“She is an awesome, awesome well-known coach and I learned a lot from her in communicating with the girls,” Brady said of McNamara. “I learned a lot other than just growing as a coach on the field.”

McNamara liked what her former assistant brought to the team as well. The Pioneers compiled a 17-4 record and advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals.

“She brought energy, a lot of knowledge on the defensive side and confidence to the team. She could relate to the girls, being closer in age,” she said. “She was a good balance for the team. I’m so excited for her and very proud of her. It’s her passion.”

Smith said she believes Brady will bring those same smarts and winning mentality to her team.

Shanna Brady coaching on the sideline at Long Island University. Photo from LIU Post
Shanna Brady coaching on the sideline at Long Island University. Photo from LIU Post

“She’s great with talking to the student-athletes, in the recruiting aspect she knows a lot of people on Long Island and she’s very confident. She’s well spoken, and I’m just excited for her next step at Hofstra,” she said. “She was a phenomenal player in college. She knows what it takes to win.”

Brady said what makes her and Smith’s connection unique, is that she looked up to Smith as a player, watching her and even playing against her in her freshman year, when Smith was still playing for Northwestern University. Now, Smith coaches Brady — who is currently playing professionally for the Long Island Sound of the United Women’s Lacrosse League.

“We really hit it off, we have similar personalities and we’re kind of cut from the same cloth,” Smith said. “Our philosophies get along with one another. Shanna brings a lot of fundamental skills. She is going to be able to adjust to what we need, whether it be something different in a season or specifically in one game, she’s quick on her feet, she’s hardworking.”

Brady is looking forward to the next step in her coaching career as well, having already had the opportunity to get to know her new team and staff, being in and out of the Hofstra office.

“[Shannon Smith] is an incredible person and a talented coach, and I’m excited to be given the opportunity to coach with her and to learn as much as I can about the game and being successful,” Brady said. “Coming from my background, you have that will and that drive that you always want to be at the top. This is an exciting opportunity because we want to get to that next level as a program.”

DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.

The world is not your oyster.

Brookhaven Town and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation thwarted offenders on Friday who they said, in two unrelated incidents on June 30 and July 3, illegally harvested oysters from the Long Island Sound near Flax Pond in Old Field and Mount Sinai Harbor respectively. Between the two incidents nearly 2,000 oysters were seized and returned to their habitats.

On June 30 Brookhaven Harbormaster stationed in Port Jefferson Harbor received a tip that oysters smaller in size than three inches — which is below the allowable size for harvest — were being taken from the Sound. Following an inspection by DEC officials, violations were issued to the oystermen and the animals were returned to the water.

DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.
DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.

“I applaud the actions of our Harbormasters and the DEC,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), whose district includes Port Jefferson Harbor said in a statement Friday. “Shellfish are vital to our harbor, providing a natural means of removing harmful nitrogen from our waters. I urge residents to both respect harvesting laws and to get involved in our local mariculture programs that help cultivate the shellfish populations in our harbors and bays.”

On July 3 four people harvested oysters from illegal areas of Mount Sinai Harbor, according to the town. Brookhaven Town Bay constables witnessed the violation, seized the oysters and returned them to the harbor.

Mount Sinai Harbor falls within Councilwoman Jane Bonner’s (C-Rocky Point) district.

“It is very disappointing when people break the law without any concern for its effect on the environment,” Bonner said in a statement. “For many years, shellfish were over harvested and we are now working hard to increase their population. I urge anyone who knows of illegal shell fishing to report it to the Town or DEC.”

The statement from the town stressed the importance of protecting shellfish in Long Island waters.

“Increasing the number of oysters and other shellfish in our waterways helps to reduce the abundance of algae that can lead to fish kills and diminished oxygen concentration and thus improve water quality,” town officials said. “Oysters feed on floating microscopic algae by filtering them out of the overlying water. One adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.”

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro at Sills Gully Beach following the revitalization. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced the completion of repairs intended to protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham, after it was severely damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“The revitalization project at Sills Gully is one of a dozen North Shore surface water quality protection projects the highway department has undertaken since I took office,” Losquadro said. “I want to thank Congressman Zeldin for expediting the federal funding necessary to complete this project and ensure the resilience of our shoreline.”

“Preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment.”

— Jane Bonner

In order to reduce risk of damage from future storm events, members of the Brookhaven highway department completely removed the ineffective gabion basket walls, replacing them with 160 feet of steel bulkhead with stone-toe protection to prevent scouring. The bulkhead — which now protects areas of the bluff that have experienced significant levels of erosion in the past — has a longer life span than the gabion walls and will better protect from future disasters.

“The completion of restoration at Sills Gully Beach is an excellent example of different levels of government working together for the benefit of our community,” Bonner said. “I have been diligently working on this issue since the damage was caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and I am extremely happy to see these necessary repairs come to fruition. By preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound, this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment. I want to thank Congressman Zeldin and Superintendent Losquadro for working with me to make this happen.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven
Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

As a result of these mitigation measures and to comply with Tidal Wetlands and Clean Water Act permits, the department included upgrades to the existing storm water system by installing a new bioretention area where storm water naturally collects. This bioretention area consists of two, 12-foot deep leaching basins and an 8-foot wide trash rack to capture storm water and transport it through nearly 400 feet of 48-inch, smooth, interior-corrugated polyethylene pipe for natural dissipation. Additionally, a rock-lined drainage swale was constructed along the length of the parking lot to collect any remaining runoff. These upgrades will ensure that polluted storm water is not directly entering the Long Island Sound.

The project was funded with an $875,000 federal grant secured by Zeldin through FEMA.

“Once Brookhaven Town received the necessary federal funding to make repairs at Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing Drainage Facility, the town was able to complete this important project,” said Zeldin, who is also a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This revitalization project will help protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham and the overall quality of water in our local area, and I am proud to join with Superintendent Losquadro and Councilwoman Bonner to announce the completion of this project.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to fishermen in Northport. Photo from Marisa Kaufman

Black sea bass is back on the table, as of June 27.

After public outcry for an earlier start to summer sea bass fishing, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced this week the season will start 19 days earlier than the previous July start date.

The DEC has blamed federal regulations and management for the reasons behind originally closing the fishing season during June, despite plentiful numbers of bass.

“In spite of abundant populations, DEC is being forced to alter the commercial and recreational fishing seasons in order to meet federal quotas,” Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. “By allowing for an earlier June opening, we’re trying to strike the best possible arrangement for the recreational fishing community.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for modifications to the summer fishing period last week at an event on the North Shore, speaking against what he called “inflexible” and “outdated” federal regulations for black sea bass fishing.

Fishing in Port Jefferson/photo by Elana Glowatz
Fishing in Port Jefferson/photo by Elana Glowatz

“After a slow start to the black sea bass season, mostly due to weather, our Long Island commercial fishers are ready to bounce back and access the plentiful supply of sea bass,” Schumer said at the event. “But instead they might fall flat if the feds and the state don’t throw them a line and let them do what they do best — fish.”

And Long Island fishermen said the July start date was hurting their livelihood.

“It’s a disaster for conservation and the economy,” said James Schneider, a boat captain in Huntington. “It’s crushed us.”

Schneider is catching other fish since the last black sea bass season ended on May 31, and said he has been forced to throw back the bass he inadvertently catches. Those die shortly after, he said, further contributing to a loss in potential profits.

Some fishers were also upset that Connecticut’s black sea bass season, which opened on May 1 and runs through Dec. 31, allowed fishermen to start earlier than in New York, as they share a body of water in the Long Island Sound.

Sean Mahar, the DEC director of communications, last week acknowledged fishing got off to a slow start in New York. Through May 21, only one-third of the May quota had been harvested, “with approximately 42,000 pounds [still] available on May 21,” Mahar said in an email. “However, the harvest rate increased dramatically the last week in May,” and the DEC had to receive more population data before deciding to open the summer fishing season earlier than July.

Although fishermen like Schneider can now get back to bass fishing earlier, the DEC has also increased the minimum size of the bottom feeders caught by 1 inch — making the new minimum length 15 inches — and reduced the daily possession limit from eight fish to three. However, that latter change will only affect the fishing season through August, so fishermen can have up to eight in September and October, and 10 in November and December.

According to the DEC, it also considered a July 8 opening with a five-fish limit, but anglers opted for the earlier start with a three-fish limit for a longer season.

Fishers can now catch black sea bass earlier this summer, but the minimum fish length has increased an inch and the number they can catch is limited for the first month.

The DEC also said the federal government’s population assessment of sea bass has caused scientists to “exercise extreme caution when determining harvest limits,” which has forced New York to reduce sea bass harvest despite an “abundance of fish.”

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is one of three organizations that jointly manage black sea bass fishing, by determining the quota for sea bass each year. The quota this year was set at about 189,000 pounds.

Kirby Rootes-Murdy, that commission’s senior fishery management plan coordinator, said obtaining accurate population data on black sea bass poses a challenge because black sea bass are a hermaphroditic species, meaning they change sex from male to female.

“The reproductive life history characteristics … of black sea bass make it difficult to develop an accurate abundance estimate, ultimately limiting the ability to develop reliable catch limits,” he said in an email. “Assessment scientists are working hard to develop models to address these issues facing black sea bass management.”

Fishers across the North Shore are angry with limits to black sea bass fishing. File photo

Something seems fishy this black sea bass fishing season.

Local legislators, fishers and state organizations alike agree that there are issues with how black sea bass fishing is being regulated.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for modifications to what he said are “inflexible” and “outdated” federal regulations for black sea bass fishing, which some North Shore fisherman said are hurting their wallets because they have to wait to fish during this crucial fishing period.

Schumer said at an event in Northport last Wednesday that the bottom feeders are not being fairly managed, and the next permitted fishing period should be allowed to start in June instead of July to put people to work at harvesting the plentiful populations.

“After a slow start to the black sea bass season, mostly due to weather, our Long Island commercial fishers are ready to bounce back and access the plentiful supply of sea bass,” Schumer said at the event. “But instead they might fall flat if the feds and the state don’t throw them a line and let them do what they do best — fish.”

“They might fall flat if the feds and the state don’t throw them a line.” —Chuck Schumer

Three organizations — the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Mid-Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — jointly manage black sea bass fishing, by determining the quota for sea bass each year. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation then determines the quota distribution through the state and periods throughout the year when fishermen can fish for black sea bass.

The quota this year was set at about 189,000 pounds and the most recent period for sea bass fishing ended on May 31, with the next slated to begin on July 1.

According to the Atlantic States group, “The objectives of [management] are to reduce fishing mortality to assure overfishing does not occur, … promote compatible regulations among states and between federal and state jurisdictions…and to minimize regulations necessary to achieve the stated objectives.”

Kirby Rootes-Murdy, that commission’s senior fishery management plan coordinator, said it works to ensure that the black sea bass population stays at a safe level.

But Schumer said the break in June is only hurting fishermen.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to fishermen in Northport last week. Photo from Marisa Kaufman
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to fishermen in Northport last week. Photo from Marisa Kaufman

“Below-average black sea bass catch rates … have made it so the total catch at this point of the season is well below the allowable quota limits,” Schumer said, “which is why it is critical to allow these struggling fishermen to continue catching black sea bass this month.”

Sean Mahar, the DEC director of communications, acknowledged fishing got off to a slow start, and said the DEC is committed to re-opening the season before the July 1 date, as long as it’s accurate that anglers are below quota — the agency is still investigating that.

Through May 21, only one-third of the May quota had been harvested, “with approximately 42,000 pounds [still] available on May 21,” Mahar said in an email.

“However, the harvest rate increased dramatically the last week in May, and the state is still awaiting data from the commercial fishermen and dealers that are required to submit landings and sales reports to DEC to determine the how much of the quota was actually harvested. If there is quota leftover, we will open the season again sooner than July 1.”

Mahar also said the DEC has pressed federal regulators, including the Atlantic States commission, to implement changes to improve fishery in New York, including the system for tabulating bass populations.

“The increasingly restrictive measures demanded of Northeastern states are inequitable and cause great socioeconomic harm to our anglers and related businesses,” DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. Regulatory agencies “must revise their management strategy and not keep New York … at a competitive disadvantage while the black sea bass population continues to grow.”

“It’s a disaster for conservation and the economy.”
—James Schneider

Rootes-Murdy said these decisions on quotas are based on population projections for the species but black sea bass pose a challenge for accurate projections, as they are a hermaphroditic species, meaning they change sex from male to female.

“That aspect makes it difficult to develop a population model around,” Rootes-Murdy said.

North Shore fishermen said the break in the season is hurting their livelihood.

“It’s a disaster for conservation and the economy,” said James Schneider, a boat captain in Huntington. “It’s crushed us.”

Schneider is catching other fish in the meantime and said he has been forced to throw back black sea bass he inadvertently catches. Those die shortly after, he said, further contributing to a loss in potential profits.

Northport fishing captain Stu Paterson said he agreed that he has had to throw back many sea bass during the off-season, as they “are all over the Sound right now.”

He also questioned why Connecticut’s black sea bass season, which opened on May 1 and runs through Dec. 31, allows fishermen to start earlier than in New York, as they share a body of water.

Kids will have fun learning about the Long Island Sound this Sunday. Photo from Whaling Museum

Environmental conservation is an important, daily issue across the country. Long Island is no exception.

On Sunday, April 17, The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor will try to do its part in spreading knowledge and awareness about humanity’s impact on the Long Island Sound. The museum is hosting SOUNDoff, a brand new event that will feature activities for marine enthusiasts of all ages including science experiments, water monitoring, art exhibits and a touch tank featuring oysters, sea stars, horseshoe crabs and hermit crabs.

Nomi Dayan, the executive director of the Whaling Museum, said that the goal of the event is to be fun and interactive for kids, while also being informative.

“SOUNDoff is [being held] basically [because] we want visitors to understand how to protect the waters around us,” Dayan said in a phone interview. “These are our neighbors that inhabit the waters.”

A press release from the museum highlighted the importance of appreciation and preservation for the large body of water that neighbors the North Shore.

“The Long Island Sound is an amazing natural resource providing economic and recreational benefits to millions of people while also providing habitat for more than 1,200 invertebrates, 170 species of fish and dozens of species of migratory birds,” the release said.

Representatives from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Seatuck Environmental Association and The Waterfront Center will all be on hand at the event to host workshops, conduct experiments and educate visitors about the importance of keeping that water clean. They will lead mock water sample tests with kids, give a presentation on marine debris and another on storm water management presentation to name a few of the various activities in store for attendees.

“There are a lot of pressures and threats against the Sound today, so it’s really up to us to keep it clean,” Dayan said. “It is a growing problem every year, especially on Long Island. Whatever we put in the water really will come back to haunt us.”

Dayan mentioned the types of fertilizers used on lawns, avoiding facial moisturizers containing micro beads and picking up after pets as some of the every day adjustments that Long Islanders can make to improve the overall health of the Sound.

According to the release, the event was partially funded by a grant from Long Island Sound Futures Fund, which pools funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This event is poised to have an impact through the rest of the summer months as Long Islanders get ready to hit the beaches, spend time on boats and fertilize their lawns,” Dayan said in the release about the lasting impact she hopes the event will have on those who attend.

Admission to the event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., is free. The Whaling Museum is located at 301 Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor. For more information, call 631-367-3418.

East Beach in Port Jefferson is on the Long Island Sound. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Giselle Barkley

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got more than it bargained for at a North Shore library earlier this month when concerned residents showed up to oppose a plan that would allow dumping of dredge spoils into the Long Island Sound for the next 30 years.

EPA officials had finalized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed open water dredging plan in January, and had set the public hearing at the Port Jefferson Free Library to get input on possible rules and regulations for the 30-year plan, which calls for the Army Corps of Engineers to dump upward of 50 cubic yards of dredge material from Connecticut waterways into the Long Island Sound.

The group has practices this type of dumping for years, but has recently faced opposition from environmental advocates.

About 60 community members attended the EPA’s hearing on the Long Island Sound Dredged Material Management Plan.

“We’re not offering … specifics in the rulemaking because we’re not going to approve a plan that pollutes the Long Island Sound,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We’ve been having public hearings for 10 years and all of the public input has been unanimously ignored.”

The EPA has said it is open to finding alternative ways to dispose of the spoils, and invited communities to partner with that agency and with the Army Corps to line up resources to explore those other methods and do the investigation.

New York State demanded that the Army Corps reevaluate its disposal process in 2005, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to make a public statement regarding the new dredging proposal.

“The Long Island Sound should be protected from adverse activities, rather than have this activity go forward,” Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said.

Englebright, the head of the state Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation, said spoils could instead be used to replenish eroded beaches: “We’re going to need to defend our coastlines and we’re going to need a lot of sediment to do that.”

Esposito had similar ideas at a press conference in February. She suggested the spoils could be used for wetlands and beach restoration and for capping landfills.

County officials like Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were disappointed in the EPA’s support of the plan. “We’ve invested so much [money] in improving the health of the Sound,” she said. “To have them make a decision that flies in the face of all that investment … is very discouraging.”

In a previous interview, Stephen Perkins, a member of the EPA’s dredging team, said the agency tests the material before dumping it into the Sound. Highly toxic spoils are not dumped.

But Hoffman said spoils jeopardize the water’s health.

“It’s an estuary of significance, it’s an estuary that’s endangered,” Hahn said.

Adrienne Esposito speaks against a plan to dump dredge spoils in the Sound as county Legislators Sarah Anker, Kara Hahn and Al Krupski look on. Photo by Giselle Barkley

It’s been about six months and North Shore leaders are still fighting against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to continue dumping dredge spoils into the Long Island Sound.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) stood alongside fellow county Legislators Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) and Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) on Tuesday at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge to voice their opposition to the plan and ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales to reject the proposal. George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force and Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, were also among the leaders who voiced their opposition to the plan.

The Army Corps has dumped dredge spoils into waterways leading to the Sound for decades. Its final proposal, known as the Long Island Sound Dredged Material Management Plan, was completed on Jan. 11 and suggested dumping 30 to 50 million cubic yards of dredge material cleared out from Connecticut waterways over the course of another 30 years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has supported the Army Corps’ proposal. Stephen Perkins, a member of the EPA’s dredging team, said the spoils are tested before being dumped to ensure they meet certain safety standards.

But critics say the state can reject the plan under the federal Clean Water Act.

Dredge dumping has caused toxic chemicals to be dispersed throughout the Sound over the years, affecting the ecosystem and many water-dwelling species, including fish and lobsters.

“If this was private industry doing this, I don’t think they’d go very far,” Krupski said. “They’d probably end up in jail.”

Over the past 11 years, the local government has spent $7 million to address environmental issues in the Sound, a fragile body of water, according to Anker. Some of that went toward creating a Long Island Sound study.

According to Esposito, New York State rejected a similar plan that the Army Corps proposed in 2005, and ordered that group and the EPA to slowly reduce the amount of dredge spoils being dumped into the Sound. She called for the plan to go back to the drawing board.

“We’ve committed so much resources, money, time and energy to protecting this water body,” Hahn said. “And then to just dump potential harmful and toxic waste spoils into our waters is a darn shame.”

Anker agreed, saying that the Sound creates upward of $36 billion of economic value on the Island.

Instead of dumping dredge spoils into the Long Island Sound, Esposito suggested using it to restore wetlands, rebuild beaches and cap landfills, among other methods of disposal.

“The Sound is dying and what they’re trying to do now is bury it in dredge spoil,” Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said at the press conference.

The local leaders also criticized the EPA for supporting the Army Corps.

“On one hand, they are advancing a nitrogen-reduction plan,” Esposito said. “And on the other, they’re turning a blind eye to the disposal of the large quantities of dredge materials which cause significant nitrogen loading into the Sound.”

A public hearing on the dredging plan will be held on Tuesday, March 1, at the Port Jefferson Free Library, at the corner of Thompson and East Main streets. That event runs from 5 to 7 p.m., with registration for public speakers starting at 4:30 p.m.