September 27, 2006
He didn't have to lobby hard to — ahem — dredge up support. Last week the county legislature looked favorably on Legislator Jay Schneiderman's environment enhancing idea. Earlier in the month members of the public works committee unanimously supported the bill, each signing on in co-sponsorship.
The measure adds ecological health and marine productivity to the criterion used in determining whether county dredging projects proceed. Traditionally, maritime navigation is the most frequently cited reason for undertaking a dredging project. To date the appointed screening committee hasn't considered environmental factors when reviewing a project, according to the legislator.
There are several steps and levels of governmental review needed before any dredging project can commence. A county appointed screening committee reviews all applications and makes a recommendation to the legislature. If green-lighted by the legislature, the funds are appropriated. Then it's up to the executive branch to implement the project, either by using Suffolk's lone dredge or by hiring an outside contractor.
"Given that the East End has 75% of the county's waterways, this bill is critical to environmental stability on the South Fork," Schneiderman opined. Under his proposal, a project could be deemed in the public interest if it enhances marine health. The County Health Department, Office of Ecology or Department of the Environment would make a determination based on water flow rates, levels of contaminants, algae growth rates or other factors that could jeopardize the health of marine ecology.
According to the lawmaker, the bill comes to the fore not long after a recent study deemed the health of Long Island's bays in mediocre condition. Schneiderman noted that winter flounder, a bottom dwelling species, is particularly sensitive to changes that a build up of silt may cause.
On Sunday, East Hampton Town Trustee Clerk William Mott lauded the passage of the bill. He explained that representatives from the body traveled upIsland to lobby to get the eastern channel of Napeague Harbor opened back in June. That's when they learned the bad news: "The county doesn't care about water quality, it's all about navigation, not keeping water quality up to snuff," Mott related. He said the trustees approached the local lawmaker and offered "wholehearted" support for the bill.