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Port Jefferson Harbor

Port Jefferson Village snatched ownership of the Village Cup back from John T. Mather Memorial Hospital at the 7th annual Village Cup Regatta boat race on Sept. 10 in Port Jefferson Harbor.

The race, which is presented by the Port Jefferson Yacht Club, features about a dozen competing boats representing either the village or Mather Hospital, and is held for a good cause.

The event has raised more than $300,000 since its inception for Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program and the Lustgarten Foundation, which funds pancreatic cancer research.

The hospital held the cup entering the 2016 race, though the village has now won four of the last six years.

Algae built up on a lake where birds and other marina life inhabit. File photo

By Rebecca Anzel

Long Island’s economic prosperity and quality of life are at risk from an unlikely source, but both the Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven governments are taking steps to combat the issue.

Bodies of water in the county face nitrogen pollution, which leads to harmful algae blooms and a decrease in shellfish population, among other environmental defects. Critically, nitrogen seeps into the Island’s groundwater, which is the region’s only source of drinking water.

Fishing, tourism and boating are billion-dollar industries in Suffolk County — approximately 60 percent of the Island’s economy is reliant on clean water. County property values are also tied to water clarity, according to a Stony Brook University report.

Nitrogen enters ground and surface water from various sources of runoff, such as landscaping, agriculture and pet waste. But the largest contributor of nitrogen pollution is failing septic systems, which County Executive Steve Bellone (D) designated as “public water enemy No. 1.”

Elected officials and environmental advocates gathered at the home of Jim and Donna Minei, recipients of a Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems through the Suffolk County Septic Demonstration Pilot Program. Photo from Steve Bellone's office
Elected officials and environmental advocates gathered at the home of Jim and Donna Minei, recipients of a Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems through the Suffolk County Septic Demonstration Pilot Program. Photo from Steve Bellone’s office

Which is why Bellone signed into law last month a resolution that amended Suffolk County’s sanitary code to help protect the county’s aquifer and surface water by improving wastewater treatment technologies to combat nitrogen pollution as part of the county’s Reclaim Our Water initiative.

“It doesn’t help our tourism industry, our quality of life or our ecosystems,” county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said of issues with the Island’s water. “Tackling the nitrogen problem, while not a sexy issue, is a very important one.” Hahn is chairwoman of the county’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee.

Town and county officials are tackling the problem by utilizing what Hahn called a “multipronged approach.” Brookhaven is working to track any issues with outfalls, where drains and sewers empty into local waters, and Suffolk County is employing alternative septic systems.

Municipalities like Brookhaven are required by New York State to inspect each point where waste systems empty into a body of water and create a map of their location. It is part of a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit because, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, storm sewers collect pollutants like bacteria, motor oil, fertilizer, heavy metals and litter, and deposit them directly into bodies of water.

In addition to conducting the inspections of outfalls necessary to comply with the MS4 permit, the Town of Brookhaven conducts a DNA analysis of any outfall that has indications of impacting water quality. Since 2007, Brookhaven has spent more than $880,000 on this state requirement, Veronica King, the town’s stormwater manager, said.

“You want to put your resources where it makes the most sense,” she said. “Instead of dumping millions of dollars into structural retrofits that don’t address the true problem, the DNA analysis helps us to prioritize and make educated and cost-effective decisions.”

Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Brookhaven contracts with Cornell Cooperative Extension because it maintains a DNA “library” of Long Island wildlife, which it uses to identify the source of any pathogens in collected stormwater. For instance, if the DNA tests conclude they came from pets, Brookhaven might conduct an educational campaign to remind residents to clean up after their furry friends. If the pathogens come from a human source, there might be an issue with a septic system.

“This type of analysis could prove of great importance because any patterns identified as a result of this study can help determine what next steps can be taken to improve water quality where necessary,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said.

Brookhaven has applied for a state grant to help pay for these DNA tests and outfall inspections for the first time this year, because, King said, this is the first time New York State has offered a grant to cover the work.

The DNA tests are important, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said, because they help to identify ways to decrease the amount of nitrogen seeping into groundwater.

“The amount of nitrogen in the Magothy aquifer layer has increased over 200 percent in 13 years,” he said of one of the sub-layers that is most commonly tapped into in Suffolk, although not the deepest in the aquifer. “Cleaning up our waterways is not going to be done overnight — this is going to take a long time — but the waterways did not become polluted overnight.”

Suffolk County launched its Septic Demonstration Program to install cesspool alternative systems in 2014, called Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (known as I/A OWTS), on the property of participants. Manufacturers of the technology donated the systems and installed them at no cost to the homeowner.

The county’s goal in testing these alternative systems is to lower the levels of nitrogen seeping into groundwater. According to a June 2016 Stony Brook University report, “the approximately 360,000 septic tank/leaching systems and cesspools that serve 74 percent of homes across Suffolk County have caused the concentrations of nitrogen in groundwater to rise by 50 percent since 1985.”

More than 10,000 of the nitrogen-reducing systems are installed in New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — all areas with similar environmental concerns to Suffolk County — according to the county executive’s office. County employees met with officials from these states to help shape its program.

“Tackling the nitrogen problem, while not a sexy issue, is a very important one.”

—Kara Hahn

The I/A OWTS installations worked out so well during a demonstration program that on July 26, the county passed a resolution to allow the Department of Health Services to regulate their use.

Typical cesspools are estimated to cost between $5,000 and $7,000 to install. The low nitrogen systems cost between $12,000 and $20,000, Hahn said. She added that as more areas facing similar environmental concerns require lower nitrogen standards and, as the technology improves, the cost of cesspool alternatives will go down.

Until then, Hahn said county officials have been discussing the possibility of subsidizing the cost of installing the I/A OWTS. It might begin requiring new homes to install low-nitrogen systems instead of traditional cesspools. Or, upon an old system’s failure, it might require an I/A OWTS be installed.

“We hope to eventually be able to help in some way,” she said.

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she hopes local businesses begin producing the alternative systems that the county determines best work for the area since it would “keep the economic dollar here” and provide jobs.

In January, Brookhaven will be the first town, Romaine said, that will begin mandating new constructions within 500 feet of any waterway to install an alternative wastewater treatment system.

“I think alternative systems work,” he said. “In many ways, even though we’re a local government, we are on the cutting edge of clean water technologies.”

Both the initiatives by Brookhaven and Suffolk County “go hand and glove,” George Hoffman, of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said. Many of Suffolk’s harbors and bays are struggling due to stormwater and nitrogen pollution, including Great South Bay, Lake Ronkonkoma, Northport Harbor, Forge River, Port Jefferson Harbor, Mount Sinai Harbor and Peconic River/Peconic Bay.

“Living on an island on top of our water supply and with thousands of homes along the shores of our harbors and bays, it never made sense to allow cesspools to proliferate,” he said.

The success of the initiatives, though, depends on residents.

“The public needs to be always recognizing that whatever we do on land here on Long Island and in Suffolk County affects not only the drinking water beneath us but the quality of our bays and waterways, streams and rivers all around us,” Hahn said. “It’s critically important that folks have that understanding. Everything we do on land affects our water here on the Island.”

 

The Long Island Seaport and Eco Center in Port Jefferson held its sixth annual “Quick ‘n’ Dirty” boat build on Aug. 13 and Aug. 14 at the Village Center. The competition allows four hours for teams of two to build boats out of wood on Saturday, which are then painted and raced around Port Jefferson Harbor on Sunday. John and Stephanie Marino came out on top in the field of eight boats, and raced their “Popeye” themed boat to victory.

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Billy Mauff races his No. 5 Superboat boat. Photo from WHM Motorsports

By Joseph Wolkin

A Port Jefferson native tried to bring a high-speed boat race to his hometown, but concerns about logistics sank the plan before it could leave the dock.

The Port Jefferson Super Boat Grand Prix, an event that would have featured 25 to 30 speed boats racing through the Long Island Sound near Port Jefferson Harbor during the second week of September, will not take place after their sanctioning body, Super Boat International, couldn’t get approval for the event from town or village officials. SBI has held races across the United States, including in Patchogue in years past.

“It’s not because I don’t like boats or any of these other reasons that I don’t want to help my merchants or boost our economic development. It’s strictly public safety.” —Margot Garant

According to a Facebook post from Billy Mauff, a Port Jefferson native and the driving force behind the proposed race, the contest was removed from SBI’s schedule due to opposition from Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point). Mauff is an owner and drives for WHM Motorsports.

“It has always been a goal of mine to bring the sport that I love so much to my hometown, with all of the positive attributes that come along with it … including the local and national exposure that the racing will bring to the community as well as the substantial economic impact that the event would have on the Village of Port Jefferson and the surrounding areas,” Mauff said in the June 21 post on WHM Motorsports’ Facebook page.

Garant addressed her concerns about the event in a phone interview Aug. 1.

“We can barely handle Pokémon right now,” Garant said. “As much as we were thankful for them thinking of us to put us on the map for economic development, we only have 600 parking spaces here. When you’re taking away the main parking lot in the Town of Brookhaven … where is everybody parking? When you look at the things we struggle with on a daily basis on an average day in the height on the summer, it’s not attainable for us.”

Bonner declined to comment on the event.

Garant’s version of events leading up to the nixing of the race differs from Mauff’s. The Mayor hesitated to call what occurred a cancelation of the event, because village or town officials never approved it.

“[Mauff] took it upon himself to tell his organization that Port Jefferson would be  fantastic,” Garant said. “He came to see us in March and apparently, the organization he represented already advertised that it was happening without meeting with the Village of Port Jefferson, the fire departments and then, I sent him to the Town of Brookhaven because I don’t own the water. He was looking at staging this in the Town of Brookhaven parking lot, which is right across the street and a vital parking lot for us. He had this whole plan, but thing is, he failed to scope out the whole plan with all of us.”

Mauff said he began the process of obtaining all necessary permits in Nov. 2015. Barbara Ransome, director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said she has correspondence dating back to March with Mauff and other organizers of the event. According to Ransome, on Feb. 22, the Chamber of Commerce supported the race and sent a letter to the Village the Port Jefferson village business district, Mauff and his wife, June Connolly. Mauff said he also met with Bonner in May.

Connolly said Mauff and SBI had a plan to run buses to and from the area to Cedar Beach to ease traffic. She said officials quickly shot down the plan. Mauff was also in contact with the United States Coast Guard in an effort to secure a permit.

“I cannot express how deeply disappointed we are in the shortsightedness of Mayor Garant and Councilwoman Bonner as well as the Town of Brookhaven in allowing their complacency, fears, personal and political differences and interests and/or biases to defeat the race without, at least, giving us the opportunity to have the race voted upon by the public, the constituents they purportedly represent, before using political influences to block an event that they do not support,” Mauff said.

The proposed race would have followed this track. Politicians opposed the race for safety and congestion reasons. Photo from SBI
The proposed race would have followed this track. Politicians opposed the race for safety and congestion reasons. Photo from SBI

SBI’s races tend to draw crowds in the thousands, according to the organization’s website.

Mauff listed more than 40 businesses in his statement that he claims supported the event.

“He said he’ll have buses, but where are you going to put the buses,” Garant said. “How are the buses going to get on the hills. It’s not because I don’t like boats or any of these other reasons that I don’t want to help my merchants or boost our economic development. It’s strictly public safety.”

‘Serene Sunset’

It was a beautiful June evening when Frank Morrone of Stony Brook took this shot of the sun setting over Port Jefferson Harbor. The hues of pinks and blues created a gorgeous backdrop for the sailboats at this treasured harbor in our community.

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

Old Mill Creek and its banks have been cleaned up. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Elana Glowatz

Old Mill Creek is almost back to its old self.

Old Mill Creek and its banks have been cleaned up, enticing a duck to swim in it Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Old Mill Creek and its banks have been cleaned up, enticing a duck to swim in it Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Restoration work on the troubled waterway in downtown Port Jefferson is nearing completion, and its look has drastically changed. Previously choked with vegetation, the sloped banks of Old Mill Creek have been cleared out and replaced with native freshwater plants, and Holbrook-based contractor G & M Earth Moving Inc. has added rock supports.

“These are the exact type of plants that belong along a freshwater stream like this,” village Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s going to be very interesting to see what it looks like next spring.”

The project, which began earlier this year, is geared toward improving water quality in the creek, which discharges into Port Jefferson Harbor. Work included removing built-up sediment that was impeding water flow; installing water filters; and repairing a blocked pipe that channels the creek underneath Barnum Avenue but in recent years had caused flooding during high tides and storms.

Old Mill Creek has been polluted and dirty for a long time. Photo from Steve Velazquez
Old Mill Creek has been polluted and dirty for a long time. Photo from Steve Velazquez

Water quality is important at Old Mill Creek because it affects the health of the harbor. But over the years the creek has been battered by invasive plants, flooding and pollution. The former Lawrence Aviation Industries, an aircraft-parts manufacturer in Port Jefferson Station, was the site of illegal dumping for many years and the hazardous chemicals traveled down-gradient through the soil and groundwater, with some of it seeping into Old Mill Creek.

The village’s restoration project includes filtration, and D’Abramo said one of the final steps to completing the work is installing a catch basin along Barnum Avenue to collect stormwater runoff before it rushes into the waterway.

Old Mill Creek starts on the west side of the village, near Longfellow Lane and Brook Road, passes the Caroline Avenue ball field and streams under Barnum. When it emerges on the other side, it goes past Village Hall and turns north, running under West Broadway and into the harbor.

D’Abramo expects the restoration to be completed before the end of this year. In addition to installing the catch basin, the contractor is also replacing a brick walkway along the side of the creek.

More than 20 teams geared up to participate in the 2nd Annual Dragon Boat Race Festival at Port Jefferson Harbor on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Teams waited to show what they were made of as they competitively rowed for first place during the race.

Some groups, including the Authentic Shaolin Kung Fu school, entertained the crowd before the 8-hour event came to a close, marking the end of another successful dragon boat race.

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Port Jefferson Yacht Club hosted its sixth annual Village Cup Regatta on Saturday, raising funds for pancreatic cancer research through the Lustgarten Foundation and for John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s palliative medicine program.

The regatta pits the hospital and Port Jefferson Village against one another in a friendly competition for the Village Cup, a trophy which the hospital has now won two years in a row following a village reign of three years.

Participants raised about $64,000 for the cause through this year’s race, according to yacht club member Chuck Chiaramonte. The sum will be split between the Lustgarten Foundation and the palliative care program, which is focused on improving patients’ quality of life.

Chiaramonte said over the six years of the regatta, the event has raised more than $300,000.

The yacht club — formerly known as the Setauket Yacht Club — supplied the boats and captains for the event, which included a parade of boats, games and face painting for children at the harborfront park, and a trophy presentation at the adjacent Village Center.

Chiaramonte said the club looks forward to the event every year.

“It was really meant to just be a joyous occasion and share the love of the water and boating with our neighbors,” he said.

A horseshoe crab no more than 4 years old. Photo by Erika Karp

The Brookhaven Town Board has officially backed Supervisor Ed Romaine’s push for a horseshoe crab harvesting ban at town parks and properties.

At a meeting on July 16, councilmembers unanimously supported a resolution that requests the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation close North and South Shore parks and underwater lands to horseshoe crab harvesting and recommends strategies to reduce the harvesting. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also spoke at the meeting and threw in his support for the effort, as it would help protect the crab population — which, according to some reports, has decreased.

“I support this resolution and encourage its passage and compliment the very fact that it has been initiated,” said Englebright, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp
State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp

In May, Romaine announced he would seek a horseshoe crab harvesting ban for areas within 500 feet of town-owned waterfront properties. Fishermen often use horseshoe crabs for bait, but the crabs are also used for medicinal purposes, as their blue blood, which is worth an estimated $15,000 a quart, is used in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries to detect bacterial contamination in drugs and supplies.

Advocates for the ban have said the crabs, whose species is 450 million years old, play a vital role in the ecosystem, as birds like the red knot eat the crabs’ eggs.

Local parks covered within the town’s request include Port Jefferson Harbor; the western boundary of the Mount Sinai inlet; underwater lands and town-owned shoreline of Setauket Harbor; and Shoreham Beach.

The DEC already has bans in place at Mount Sinai Harbor and West Meadow Beach.

In addition, the town asked the DEC to consider mandating fishers to use bait bags and/or artificial bait; banning the harvesting of horseshoe crab females; and establishing full harvest bans several days before and after full moons in May and June — the crabs’ nesting season.

Those latter recommendations were not included in the original resolution, but were added after weeks of discussion on the issue.

Local baymen have said their livelihoods would be jeopardized by any further restrictions, and the seamen remained opposed to the resolution last Thursday. Many also disagreed with officials that the crab population was decreasing.

“If you were with us you would know the quantities are there,” Florence Sharkey, president of the Brookhaven Baymen’s Association, said at the meeting.

Sharkey added that alternative baits have been tried, but don’t work.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp

Despite the testimony, the Town Board moved forward with resolution, which had been tabled for nearly two months. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) called the decision a difficult one.

During public comment, Englebright invited the fishers to speak before his committee, as the state is wrestling with the issue as well.

The assemblyman introduced legislation in March that would impose a moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs and their eggs until 2021. While the bill wasn’t voted on in the last legislative session, a different bill, which outlines similar recommendations to the DEC regarding crab conservation and management, was approved.

Englebright said the law would be revisited in two years. He said he hoped the DEC would get better data on the crabs in the future as well.

While the state continues to grapple with the issue, Englebright noted the town’s requested ban is different, as it pertains to parkland.

“This is a park and public expectation is different than [at] the general shoreline,” he said. “A park is usually a place that animals have the opportunity to have refuge.”

Port Jefferson Village Board denies use of floating docks to extreme water sport

FlyboardLI, a company behind an extreme water sport, wants to operate out of Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo from Jimmy Bissett

FlyboardLI, a company behind a fairly new extreme water sport, has been denied approval to operate out of Port Jefferson Harbor any longer.

It had been previously working out of the harbor without approval of the Port Jefferson Village Board or a proper permit since May this year.

The board decided at a meeting on Monday evening that there were too many liabilities attached to the activity. Trustees said the harborfront park has always been a passive park, and they want it to remain that way.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Bissett was disappointed to hear that the village would not be approving his proposal.

“I bring people into the town, it’s a very popular activity,” Jimmy Bissett, owner of FlyboardLI said. “I had more than 500 customers last season, and I am doing very well this season.”

Invented by Franky Zapata, a competitive jet skier, the sport offers a fusion between wakeboarding, surfing, kite surfing, and Jet Skis. It involves strapping into a pair of boots, which are connected to a long hose. The rider can control the hose to float on the water, submerge underneath it or soar above it.

The sport gained popularity after a 2012 YouTube video of the first flight ever went viral. The video now has more than 15 million views.

The Village Board was unanimous in its decision to deny a trial period for FlyboardLI in the harbor. Bissett had also requested three parking spaces and the use of the floating docks in the harbor as part of his application.

Members including Trustee Larry LaPointe said he felt that there were more liabilities at stake to comprehend. He questioned if someone on a Flyboard struck a resident who was paddle-boarding, or damaged a boat in the harbor, whether the village would be held accountable.

Mayor Margot Garant said she had mixed feelings on the application.

“I think it’s a great attraction, but I feel that the harbor is a passive place, for activities like paddle-boarding and fishing.”

The board noted that FlyboardLI had participated in the village’s last two maritime festivals and at both, the activity seemed to be a big success. Board members also noted that the floating docks in the harbor Bissett wants to use for the business currently have no activity on them.

But the board felt that the potential cons would outweigh the pros for the village.

Bissett started the company last summer in Riverhead, but he first became involved with the sport in 2012, when he was in Arizona. He wanted to bring the activity back to his native Long Island to share it with residents here.

Last summer, while operating out of Peconic River in Riverhead, Bissett ran into some problems with the Town of Riverhead. He decided in the next season to bring FlyboardLI to his hometown of Port Jefferson.

Bisset explained that every participant has to be sign a liability waiver, and that the company is fully insured. The company offers several session options. The 15-minute session starts at $99.