Representatives of Gardiner’s Bay Country Club were peppered with questions at Monday afternoon’s Water Advisory Committee (WAC) meeting about efforts to double annual water use on the golf course from 6 million gallons to 12 million and adding another 100,000 million gallons of water use for the clubhouse.
The committee has been asked by the Town Board to hear the Country Club’s proposal and public comments and offer advice on the impact of increased water use.
The crux of the matter for WAC members was how to recommend approval of greater water use for the country club at a time when town officials are asking the public to conserve water during a moderate drought.
Although rain levels year to date total 21.4 inches, that is still below the 25 inches recorded for the period in previous years.
The WAC said the situation remains “guarded.”
Hydrologists from WSP, a global company with U.S. headquarters in New York City, told the WAC and a room filled with members of the neighboring Hay Beach Property Owners Association, that testing demonstrates there would not be adverse effects on neighboring wells. They noted an application is with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
They also said there would be ongoing monitoring to ensure there would be no buildup of contaminants or salt water intrusion in those neighboring wells.
WAC member Greg Toner said the Town Board also wants to hear from residents of the Village of Dering Harbor about the proposal.
WAC Chairman Peter Grand asked if there was no capacity in the plan to store water off season for use in the more heavily populated town during summer months. He said he would want to be assured no harm would come to neighboring wells and sees no reason for the Country Club to be pumping its wells in summer months, especially in August, when there are Island areas without sufficient water.
Put more tanks in the ground to store water, WAC member Lisa Shaw recommended.
Jay Card Jr., a former town Highway Department superintendent and Public Works commissioner, who is a member of the Gardiner’s Bay Country Club Committee advocating the proposal, said evaporation loss would be a problem with storage.
Mr. Card said the club’s existing irrigation system is faulty and must be replaced and that would be an initial step before any increased water use could be needed.
“In reality, we have to replace something that is broken,” club President Doug Sandberg said.
Town Engineer Joe Finora said he was advised by Town Attorney Stephen Kiely that in addition to a DEC Water Withdrawal Permit, the town would have to make changes to its municipal irrigation law to accommodate the proposal.
Bill Mastro, president of the Hay Beach Property Owners Association, said the application club officials filed with the DEC for a permit failed to mention the need for the town to change its irrigation law if the proposal was to be implemented.
The town has one aquifer “that is delicate and it is precious to us,” Mr. Mastro said. At a time when residents might have to cover their pools and make changes to their irrigation practices, the club’s requested increased water use “just doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Mastro said.
Hay Beach resident Stephen Jacobs said in 1996 the DEC turned down a request for the club to increase its water use, concerned that it could cause salt water intrusion in many Hay Beach wells.
Dering Harbor resident Peter Neckles wanted to know what benefit to the town the club’s application would provide. How could the town say yes to the golf club and no to Hay Beach residents about increasing water use? he asked.
The WAC took no action Monday on what recommendation it might make to the Town Board about the GBCC application.
Given the almost two-hour discussion of the Country Club’s application, the WAC delayed any lengthy discussion of upcoming public forums on water issues. But on July 27, at 5 p.m., Ms. Shaw and WAC colleague Andrew Chapman will be under the tent at the Shelter Island Library for a discussion about how residents could get clean drinking water.
There will be other public forums to discuss water issues on Aug. 31 and again in September.