09/24/12 4:00pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop during a press conference Monday in the Village of Old Field. Federal and state environmental officials announced that 35 municipalities and community groups in New York and Connecticut will receive grants totaling over $1.6 million

Congressman Tim Bishop and other federal and state officials announced Monday that 35 municipalities and community groups in New York and Connecticut will receive grants totaling over $1.6 million to help fund projects aimed at improving water quality within the Long Island Sound.

The grants are awarded annually through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, a public-private grant program that currently pools funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wells Fargo.

Officials said the 35 projects will open up water passages for fish, as well as restore 390 acres of fish and wildlife habitat along the waterfront. Fifteen grants totaling about $913,200 were awarded to groups in New York.

During a press conference in the Village of Old Field, officials announced that Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, Peconic Green Growth, and the University of Connecticut were among the winners of the grant monies.

Mr. Bishop described partnerships between governmental entities and community groups as “critical” due to the current economic climate.

“The EPA and funding are under assault,” he said. “If we are going to proceed, as we must, we need to see to it that the environment we pass on is at least as good if not better than what we inherited. [To] protect the quality of life here on Long Island, both in our surface waters and our ground water, we’re going to need partnerships.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension received a $128,000 grant to help fund a nearly $330,000 project called “Engaging Vineyards to Implement Water Quality Improvement.” According to the proposal, Cornell Cooperative will develop a state-of-the-art pest and nutrient management pilot program aimed at improving water quality through reducing pesticide use at six wineries.

Becky Wiseman of Cornell said her group is in the process of finalizing a list of wineries that will participate in the program.

“We created this comprehensive idea for the vineyard industry, because it will dovetail nicely with other sustainability projects on Long Island,” she said.

In addition, Cornell Cooperative received a $95,000 grant to help pay for its “Marine Meadows Eelgrass Restoration Program.” The nearly $200,000 project includes organizing 400 volunteers to transplant eelgrass at different locations along the Sound.

The Peconic Green Growth, a not-for-profit organization focused on issues that integrate environment and community, received a $60,000 grant to help fund a nearly $150,000 decentralized wastewater treatment pilot project. The group has proposed that a solution to treating wastewater without the fear of high-density development is a “cluster” approach to sewering as opposed to a running a massive centralized system. The group is in the process of finding communities interested in taking part of a decentralized pilot program through Natural Systems Utilities, a New Jersey-based company that specializes in alternative wastewater systems.

The University of Connecticut received a $40,000 grant to help fund a more than $70,000 project to develop a management plan to remove invasive plants from seven acres at Great Gull Island, which is part of Southold Town, in order increase nesting habitat.

EPA officials said there is a review process associated with each project in order to monitor progress and success rates. Those reviews are expected to take place within the year.

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05/08/12 12:54pm

Former Riverhead Councilwoman Barbara Blass, preservation advocate Richard Wines and local green activist Lillian Ball are this year’s recipients of environmental awards given by the North Fork Environmental Council.

The NFEC announced Friday that Ms. Blass will receive the organization’s Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year honors for her long-standing efforts to preserve the environment.

“Trying to look ahead, her work on Riverhead’s Master Plan and open space preservation are testaments to someone who cared, worked hard and got things done,” NFEC stated in announcing the awards. “But after leaving office, the caring, concern and dedication to doing what’s right didn’t end. To this day, Barbara can be found attending numerous meetings in and around the North Fork, trying to make sure that she is doing all she can do to protect the people and the places she so loves.”

Mr. Wines and Ms. Ball are this year’s Environmental Hero Award recipients.

The group credits Mr. Wines, who currently serves on the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission, for successfully preserving many historically significant structures, including parts of the Hallockville Museum Farm and the Jamesport Meeting House. Mr. Wines is also involved with a grassroots efforts to keep Sound Avenue rural.

Ms. Ball has been recognized for her vision and drive as an environmental artist and artist. In 2009, Ms. Ball presented a plan called “WaterwashTM” — a combination of permeable pavement, vegetative swale and informational signs — to reduce stormwater runoff at Mattituck Inlet.

The awards ceremony is June 2 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Hallockville Museum in Riverhead. Tickets are $40 each, $70 per couple. Call 298-8880.

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09/14/11 12:23pm

Environmental groups — led by firebrand Pine Barrens Society head Richard Amper — announced this week they are planning to file a lawsuit against Suffolk County lawmakers because the government approved the use of funds slated for drinking water and open space preservation to balance next year’s budget.

Mr. Amper, director of the nonprofit Riverhead-based Long Island Pine Barrens Society, charged in a press release this week that on Aug. 2 the Legislature and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy illegally approved using monies from the Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program to help plug a $150 million budget gap.

Mr. Amper said the county’s move was illegal because the program, created in 1987 to safeguard drinking water through purchasing land and preventing development, “may only be amended, modified, repealed or altered by an enactment of an appropriate Charter Law subject to mandatory referendum.

“Lawmakers ripped-off the taxpayers, directing millions to plug a hole in the bloated county budget,” Mr. Amper said. “That’s not just a betrayal of public trust; it’s against the law.”

Long Island Environmental Voters Forum member Jennifer Juengst, whose nonprofit group is another litigant in the case, said in a press release that she believes “voters have been defrauded.”

“We urged voters to support the Drinking Water Protection Program most recently in a 2007 referendum, so it’s our responsibility to prevent elected officials from committing voter fraud by ripping taxpayers off,” she said.

The environmental groups are expected to file suit Sept. 15.

Mr. Levy did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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08/09/11 8:28am

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop met with state legislators from New York and Connecticut on Monday in Port Jefferson to discuss a plan to protect the Long Island Sound.

A comprehensive plan to save the Long Island Sound was unveiled Monday afternoon in Port Jefferson after local municipalities from New York and Connecticut agreed on common goals that aim to preserve the shared body of water.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the new bi-state effort will help achieve “clean waters, safe beaches and a healthy ecosystem.”

“The Long Island Sound is an $8 billion economic engine,” she said. “It captures our maritime history and we believe it holds the promise of the future.”

While the health of the Long Island Sound has been in peril over the years from stormwater runoff pollution and an increase in nitrogen loading, water quality improvements are on the rise as fish abundance has recently increased, Ms. Esposito said.

“We want to build on that momentum,” she said, adding that she believed protecting wildlife while creating new jobs on the North Shore would result in a sustainable economy.

Ms. Esposito’s group met at the Port Jefferson Village Center dock with representatives from the Audubon Society and state legislators from Connecticut and New York. The group has planned a month-long schooner tour, stopping at different ports to promote the new plan, which is called “Sound Vision.”

The plan advocates for new jobs and promotes environmentally sound infrastructure along the shoreline.

Congressman Tim Bishop said he agreed with the plan’s objectives because he believes the local economy is tied to the environment, especially on the East End where many farming communities and wineries are located.

“Long Islanders know there is an important connection between the health of the Long Island Sound and the health of our economy,” he said. “The environment is the economy and the economy is the environment.”

Some of the plan’s recommended projects include stormwater remediation, which would help deter polluted runoff from entering into the Sound, and septic and sewage treatment system upgrade requirements that would reduce nitrogen loading.

The plan also calls for the creation of environmentally friendly tourist areas. Landscaping for waterfront communities should include rain gardens to help filter pollutants and conserve water, according to the report. In addition, natural habitats should also be preserved and protected.

An investment plan to maintain current government funding and increase private donations is included. One idea already underway in Connecticut is a “Preserve the Sound” license plate in which proceeds go to the Long Island Sound Fund, a charity based in Hartford.

The plan was developed by a 37-member committee, known as the Long Island Sound Study’s Citizens Advisory Committee. The group is comprised of various municipalities from both sides of the Sound, environmentalists, business associations, civic leaders and academic organizations.

Mr. Bishop conceded that the economic climate for the federal government to fund such an effort is “a very difficult one” given the recent cutbacks, including $3 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget. But, Mr. Bishop said, he believes having both states join together along with non-profit groups and the private sector will prove to be beneficial.

“To step up where government used to be — and hopefully someday will return — I think it couldn’t have possibly come at a better time,” Mr. Bishop said.

To read the report, visit www.lisoundvision.org.

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11/02/10 8:03pm

CARA LORIZ PHOTO Peter Vielbig explained to the Town Board Tuesday the Two-Percent Committee recommendation to borrow $1.8 million to cover the costs of impending open space purchases.

The Town of Shelter Island needs to borrow $1.8 million before it can close on impending open space purchases.

On Tuesday, the Town Board heard a formal recommendation from Peter Vielbig of the town Community Preservation Fund (CPF) committee (also know as the two-percent committee) to bond for the funds as soon as possible. “The inevitability of two contracts we have signed are approaching,” he said. Town funds from the two-percent real estate transfer tax are adequate to cover the $3.6 million cost of purchasing half of the Klenawicus property (an acquisition approved by the board in 2006), but a closing on the Brandenstein property is also expected soon. The town will need $1.8 million to meet these obligations should both purchases close at the end of the year.

And it can borrow the money without impacting the town budget if 2-percent revenues’ sales reach or exceed $6 million annually. In 2007, the town authorized borrowing up to $15 million for open space purchases through bonding, which would be paid back with incoming revenues from the transfer tax. The town’s authority to bond for open space has never been exercised before.

Working with Michael Coles and Peter Munson of the committee, Mr. Vielbig developed “our cautious and conservative approach to borrowing.” The $1.8 million total would include all bond administration costs, estimated at $30,000, and would be paid over 20 years at 3.25 percent interest. So long as $6 million worth of real estate is sold each year, the town will bring in over $100,000 annually, more than enough to cover its bond payments.

Preservation funds will be adequate, Mr. Vielbig said, to cover a purchase of development rights at Sylvester Manor in mid-2011. But once that’s paid off, the committee is recommending that the town set funds aside to build a reserve of CPF monies.

Should new properties become available for preservation “we would entertain anything,” Mr. Vielbig added. “We’re not shutting down, we’re constantly looking but we’ll have financial restrictions.”

While a financing plan has been laid out, questions remained as to who in town government must take the next step. Town Attorney Laury Dowd said she is working with bond counsel contracted by the town, who will need a certification of the town’s good faith and credit from Supervisor Dougherty. A Town Board resolution is expected to authorize the $1.8 million in bonds; a special meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 1 at 1 p.m. for this purpose.

“We’ve got to get this thing going,” said Councilman Glenn Waddington, who serves as liaison to the two-perc ent committee. “It will be five years in February,” Judy Brandenstein commented on her family’s efforts to complete an open space deal.

“If it’s humanly possible to do it this year, we’ll do it this year,” Mr. Dougherty said.


Peter Vielbig contacted the Reporter after this story went to press to explain that only three years’ worth of bond payments would be set aside in a reserve fund, not three years’ worth of two percent revenues.