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Peconic Estuary Program focuses on water protection

REPORTER FILE PHOTO

REPORTER FILE PHOTO

Peconic Estuary Program (PEP) Executive Director Joyce Novak told the Town Board Tuesday her group wants to be a resource to reduce the nitrogen content in the Island’s water.

The main culprit, by all accounts, is waste water due to aged septic systems, and the town continues to promote its rebate program to assist residents in offsetting costs associated with installing nitrogen-reducing septic systems. But other contributors to the problem are fertilizers, animal wastes and storm water runoff.

Nitrogen reduces the oxygen content in water, which has a negative effect on wildlife, Ms. Novak said. While Shelter Island has some of the best underwater seagrass meadows — essential for healthy aqua life — in the region, they are declining because of the water’s nitrogen content.

She pointed to critical areas where attention should be focused, including:
• West Neck Bay, which would benefit from more septic improvements.
• Coecles Harbor, where PEP is encouraging use of conservation moorings, something the town’s Waterways Management Advisory Council (WMAC) has questioned. WMAC is concerned the moorings will, over time, work their way out of the bottom. But Ms. Novak said she’ll share results from Rhode Island where the moorings have been used effectively.
• Shell Beach, where PEP would like to see elimination of invasive plants and use of native plants, something Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. is working on.
• Water reuse at the Shelter Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, perhaps by recycling the water to irrigate the Shelter Island Country Club golf course.

In other business: The board heard an appeal from Vincent Novak to vote September 28 on acquiring his property at 48 Lake Drive. Mr. Novak said the town is getting poor advice from the Conservation Preservation Fund Advisory Board suggesting limits on how CPF money could be used.

The public hearing on the possible acquisition remains open. Councilman Paul Shepherd said there are still issues the board should resolve before voting.

There were apologies by board members for banning a Reporter staffer from accompanying the board on a recent fact-finding mission, which was the continuation of a work session.

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