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Community Interest Is High for FOB’s Watershed Action Plan

The community showed its interest in the formation of the Friends of the Bay Watershed Action Plan for Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor area steering committee work as they attended the Dec. 1 meeting at the Oyster Bay High School library. The fact that many in the audience were new to the process made for a good result in sharing information and expertise. FOB Executive Director Patricia Aitken said, “The attendees at the Watershed Action Plan meeting have substantial expertise to share. There was representation from both the Towns of Oyster Bay and Huntington, local villages, government agencies, other organizations, and citizens. This is what Friends of the Bay had envisioned, that a plan would be developed that truly reflects what the community thinks.

“I think it is something that we should be very proud of - that people are willing to contribute their time and knowledge to this effort. The Watershed Action Plan is a true community effort,” she said.

Phil Blocklyn, Oyster Bay Historical Society executive director said, “At this meeting things made more sense. There was total participation. The one before we were all filling out the cards but at this event it was like being in school - learning. They made more sense talking of setting priorities and a time line. With so many actions being considered it is good to prioritize.

“It was a nice presentation, orderly and people for the most part gave their opinions and expressed themselves very civilly.

“Now it’s a question of actually doing things. We have an idea of what will be done. We will try to implement some of those ideas when we do the landscaping at our new building.” The OBHS is completing the work on the Angela F. Koenig Research and Collections Center located at the rear of their property at 20 Summit Street. “We’ll consider the rainwater runoff and how to handle it,” said Mr. Blocklyn.

The WAP process is going along well. The Town of Oyster Bay announced that it is forming Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee, and has received a Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant in the amount of $60,000 to hire a project coordinator to develop a work plan, which is seen as a positive step, said the Fuss & O’Neill presenters, Eric Mas and Dan Buttrick. Another plus is that the Watershed Action Plan is being developed consistent with EPA and NYSDEC guidance for the development of watershed-based plans, which includes nine key elements that establish the structure of the plan. These nine elements include specific goals, objectives, and strategies to protect and restore water quality; methods to build and strengthen working partnerships; a dual focus on addressing existing problems and preventing new ones; a strategy for implementing the plan; and a feedback loop to evaluate progress and revise the plan as necessary. Mr. Buttrick said it is easier to get a project funded when it is part of the larger plan for watershed protection.

Jaimie VanDyke Doran, TOB Dept of Environmental resources community information aid, said the town will work with the 14 municipalities and FOB - with the town as the fiscal agent for the project.

And, the WAP needs funding for the project implementation, which includes educating the public on how they can do things that will help the health of the watershed area.

In line with education, Ms. VanDyke Doran said the town offers children from grades K to 12 environmental education. She said she goes to Locust Valley and Bayville Schools several times a year talking about environmental education but that the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District has not used their free services.

Enhancing Fish Passages - Removing Dams

Mr. Blocklyn said part of the information given out at the meeting included the consideration of removing dams to allow for fish migration. He said there are several jurisdictions involved in that happening at the Oyster Bay Wildlife Refuge which includes the Mill Pond. He said the DEC and National Fish and Wildlife Service would come into play if they consider removing the dam. “The Mill Pond was created as West Main Street turns into West Shore Road and crosses the creek which is actually a dam. Removing that would involve a lot of jurisdictions and would change the ecology. The pond would disappear and for a few years it would be mud. Eventually it would become a meadow with a stream running through it,” he said.

Mr. Blocklyn said the WAP draft document mentioned the Mill Pond, Beaver Pond and Mill Creek as all having dams with the potential of being returned to their original forms. “It would be a huge change in the ecology of those areas. People would have very strong opinions for and against the issue. The Mill Pond is pretty. Removing the dam would allow fish to get up into Mill River.

“Shu Swamp has trout in the creek that flows through Shu Swamp. Any change in Beaver Pond would affect a great deal. It’s a very complicated issue – if they recommend it -from the many people who fish the Mill Pond. The DEC annually puts brown trout there and you always see people fishing in the pond.

“Upstate they have been removing beaver dams. When beaver dams give way you are left with a huge mudhole with a trickle of water. It takes a few years to revert into something good. They call them Beaver Meadows.”

Mr. Blocklyn said, “I kind of like dams. their reason for being may be gone but a new reason comes up. The mill ponds were to create water power for grist mills.”

Taking a historical view of the site he said, “They had a hydro-electric power here in Oyster Bay for a while, before the utilities came. The building is still there.”

He added, “It is an interesting point, that in other parts of NYS there are movements to remove dams as being unnatural structures in parkland.”

Small Wetlands
Another issue brought up is that on the DEC wetland lists, smaller wetlands are not listed, such as along Mill River. That is where public education can help in teaching how people should and should not develop areas along smaller wetlands. Another way to address the issue is to try to get the DEC to include the smaller wetlands onto their maps so that they are protected.
Creating Consensus

During the meeting, Mr. Mas and Mr. Buttrick mentioned the Nissequogue Watershed Protection Plan developed by Louise Harrison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and liaison. She said in developing the Nissequogue plan there were two civic associations involved. “One came in fighting a proposal and by the end were for the proposal and went to the local government and supported the project they came to fight.”

“Everyone in Oyster Bay has an opinion. This is a diverse group – it is great,” said Ms. Aitken.

Another discussion involved septic systems with the suggestion that older systems be inspected and maintained.

Ms. Harrison asked if climate change and its effects on marshlands would be included in the plan. The Nature Conservancy is mapping the South Shore and will start on the North Shore mentioning sea level rise and more storms and the effects on infrastructure too.

Strong Tree Canopy
Mr. Buttrick said when reviewing the cards written out by the public, people were most interested in water quality with 24 responses garnered in the cardstorming. Water quality is most affected by stormwater and trees are an essential part of controlling stormwater.

The report said that Oyster Bay is doing well with maintaining a tree canopy that is essential in handling rainfall. NYC is 23 percent treed; the goal is 30 percent by 2030. In Oyster Bay there is a 45 percent tree canopy, which should be protected and maintained. By the way, they mentioned, White’s Creek has only a 15 percent canopy – an area that can be improved.

Tree removal regulations were mentioned and Leonard Hecht, a boater, said that in Florida, to get people to add trees on their property, they get a tax reduction for them. Gregory Druhak said regulations can be a liability to property management and that giving incentives instead of punishment seemed like a goal to achieve.

He said, “TR said it was important to balance the environment against growth.”

There was seen a need to balance access with protection, which Mr. Mas said was a good comment and he added that while some hiking trails have public access that some should be preserved “as is” – that there is a place for just open space.

Leonard Hecht, representing the Oyster Bay Power Squadron, said they want the different jurisdictions for the harbor to work with them. He added that the comment in the draft plan that there was congestion in the harbor was incorrect. Ms. Van Dyke Doran said there are 700 or so moorings in the bay and this year they have 400 permits, an indication of the economy, that there are less boats there now.

Comments Welcome

As the evening ended, Mr. Mas said they still welcome public comments on the plan. He said the steering committee will meet again. The final plan should be finished by May or June. You can see the evening’s presentation on the Friends of the Bay website There, you can add your comments to their blog.

FOB board member Matt Meng said, summing up the evening said, “I was very impressed by the amount of people there. That includes John Turner, Town of Brookhaven director of environmental protection [who attended in his position as a board member of the Huntington Oyster Bay Audubon Sociery]. He was one of those involved very early in protecting the Pine Barrens. “This whole project is regionally significant for the protection of the watershed and the turnout on a rainy evening showed how people are concerned about the quality of life here on the north shore and about our responsibilities as landowners and citizens for the next generations. The Indians said, ‘You should protect life for the seven generations in front of them.’ That would be great.”