Mayor: Dering Harbor in same boat as Island on water issue

REPORTER FILE PHOTO |   Dering Harbor Mayor Tim Hogue said the village is in a wait-and-see-mode, like the rest of the Island, on the issue of automatic sprinkler systems.

If the Town Board decides to implement a proposed ban on automatic irrigation systems, the Village of Dering Harbor will be watching and listening carefully.

Mayor Tim Hogue said villagers are in the same position as the rest of their Island neighbors. “We’re waiting, like the rest of the Island to see the hydrologist’s report,” Mr. Hogue said

Dering Harbor has already implemented restrictions on water use, such as alternate day lawn sprinkling, Mr. Hogue said, and the village’s central water supply is monitored on a regular basis. Most Dering Harbor residents get their water from the village’s own system.

Automatic irrigation systems are fed by separately approved wells, Mr. Hogue said. What’s more, the Village doesn’t have a lot of residents and especially doesn’t have a lot of residents with large families who would likely place more of a burden on the Island’s water supply, he said. Even when its population increases during the summer, it’s still relatively small compared with changes on the rest of the Island where numbers swell dramatically between late May and Labor Day.

Dering Harbor has only 23 residential users and no commercial users, according to Shelter Island’s Watershed Management Plan (WMP) developed by Nelson, Pope & Voorhis of Melville and presented to the town in July. Much of the plan addresses water quality and efforts to protect it, but it also makes references to quantity.

Dering Harbor is one of three areas on Shelter Island with its own separate water district along with Shelter Island Heights and West Neck. West Neck is owned by the town and serves about 56 residential and commercial users, according to figures in the WMP. The Heights Property Owners Corporation, encompassing about 160 residential and commercial customers, is private, but it’s not an incorporated municipality like Dering Harbor. Accordingly, both of the Heights and West neck are covered by any regulations set by the Town Board.

The WMP describes three aquifers on the Island — the Upper Glacial, Magothy and Lloyd aquifers. “Fresh groundwater used for water supply purposes is derived from water contained within the upper part of the Upper Glacial aquifer,” according to the report. But it also states that groundwater contained “in the lower part of the Upper Glacial aquifer, as well as the Magothy and Lloyd aquifers, is saline and unsuitable for consumption or irrigation.”

The general flow of water goes from higher elevations in the Center and Shelter Island Heights to lower elevations. But it’s unclear if water can flow to reach the lowest Island areas that have experienced dry spells and salt water intrusion.

Whether the water supply in one area of Shelter Island could be channeled to other parts of the Island is among the questions the town’s Irrigation Committee is seeking to answer. The committee will be looking to its consulting hydrologist, Ben Benbegna of Leggette, Brashears & Graham, a Shelton, Connecticut-based consultancy for that information.

At issue for Islanders is whether lack of restrictions in one area could affect the availability of water in other areas.