It turns out that the upgraded combined sewage treatment plant, which has finally been agreed upon by the local municipalities in charge, needs an environmental impact study to determine if any of the proposed construction would have a detrimental effect on the habitat of Manhasset Bay. This was no surprise.
This shot, looking southward, shows the existing bulkhead, which the district is recommending to be rehabilitated. This part of the project will require approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New York Department of State.
However, last week the Water Pollution Control District received a letter from the NY Department of Environmental Conservation stating that the DEC wishes to the be lead agency in the study, the coordinating body that oversees the scope and depth of the study. Some of the wording in the letter caused sparks to fly and raised the ghost of diversion to Cedar Creek in the minds of some. The district had planned to fulfill the role of lead agency.
The Record was permitted to speak directly with William Spitz, the Regional Water Manager in the Division of Water at the DEC who was emphatic that this turn of events was not a ploy to drag out the process or to go back to the drawing board and re-examine diversion to Cedar Creek, a piping, pumping project that would have stretched from here to Glen Cove Road at the Long Island Expressway.
Mr. Spitz stated that the environmental assessment review, which had been sent to the DEC from the district, a 21-page preliminary form, listed 10 environmental permits that would be sought for the project. He said, "A number of those permits are complicated to obtain and it is our belief that the DEC would be able to expedite the process instead of delay it. For example, getting a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and getting a tidal wetlands permit is not a walk in the park." He went on to add that the DEC has on its staff experts who would be able to provide information needed for a review and that factor alone would and could save the district time and money in consultant fees if the DEC were to be the lead agency in the review.
The district wants to replace and renovate an existing 230-foot bulkhead, which requires permits from the Corps of Engineers and the Department of State that regulates coastal waters.
In addition, the district wants to create an extended, new bulkhead running 140 feet on the northeast portion of the property. The purpose for a new bulkhead would be to allow a road to be created around the oval-shaped oxidation ditch, slated to be 280 feet long, 140 wide and 20 feet high, to allow vehicles to do maintenance on the structure. It would also provide for erosion control and stabilization of the area.
This new, proposed bulkhead is one of the bones of contention between the district and the DEC. District chairperson Jane Rebhuhn told the Record that if eliminating the new extended bulkhead would smooth the process, the district could revise their plans.
Engineers for the district insist that the proposed extended bulkhead would not have a significant impact on the bay's ecology. Steven Cabrera from William Cosulich Associates, the engineering firm for the district, writes in a January 9 letter to the district, that the extended bulkhead would not require "filling in a tidal wetland" refuting a point mentioned in the DEC letter.
According to Mr. Murphy, the DEC has not visited the site; he thinks that some of the misunderstandings about the project might be clarified if an on-site visit were arranged with the DEC.
Mr. Spitz stated that he felt the project should qualify for stimulus package money, if approved by Congress, because it would represent a needed, environmentally positive infrastructure improvement. He said, "We have every wish to see this project succeed and we think it should be pursued aggressively."
He also said that if the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is done "correctly, thoroughly and completely there could be a relatively quick decision."
Last week, the Record called Supervisor Jon Kaiman's office twice with a question about whether or not Mr. Kaiman has submitted his list of "shovel ready" projects to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer's office. At press time, we had not heard back from the supervisor's office.