If the town decides to put any money currently earmarked for land preservation into clean water initiatives, there have to be well-researched plans with specifically targeted projects.
That’s according to Councilman Jim Colligan, who brought up the topic at the Town Board work session Tuesday. Mr. Colligan said members of the Shelter Island Association (SIA) meeting Monday evening discussed a new law permitting East End municipalities to take a portion of the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) for use in clean water initiatives.
The CPF, established in 1999, has protected more than 10,000 acres of land on the East End by investing more than $1 billion raised through a 2 percent tax on real estate purchases.
The new law, sponsored by Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) would allow up to 20 percent of CPF funds to be used for programs addressing:
• Wastewater treatment improvements
• Aquatic habitat restoration
• Pollution prevention
• Operation of the Peconic Bay national Estuary Program
To allot money from the CPF fund for water quality, each town must devise and approve a plan and go to the voters with a public referendum.
It’s estimated by the state that money ticketed for water protection programs could amount to $2.7 billion by 2050.
Mr. Colligan said SIA members were “leery” of transferring preservation funds into water projects. “Everyone isn’t ready to jump on that 20 percent money unless they know they’re going to see clear results,” Mr. Colligan said.
Supervisor Jim Dougherty said he had spoken to SIA President Tim Hogue after the meeting and “had the impression” that the membership “were much more positive” toward the idea of funding water projects through the CPF.
Mr. Dougherty acknowledged that the issue was “complicated as heck,” but there is “nothing more important than water.”
The supervisor noted that he, Councilwoman Mary Dudley, Town Attorney Laury Dowd and Town Engineer John Cronin had had a “good brainstorming session” on the town’s projected response to the new law. He had also met with Mr. Thiele and learned that the law may be the subject of further “clarification on some of the provisions.”