The Northwest Alliance has asked the candidates for the positions of Town Supervisor and Town Board Member to answer three questions that are of concern to our organization. The questionnaire is shown below along with the answers in the order in which they were received. Three candidates responded: Larry Cantwell (Town Supervisor), and Job Potter and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez (Town Board members). We have not heard from Town Board candidates Fred Overton or Dominick Stanzione.
Question 1: Water Quality. The effects of rising sea level and severe weather events on our ocean shorelines has received national and local attention. The same forces imperil the bayside coastal areas, including wetland retreat, estuarine water quality, compromised septic system, and saltwater intrusion into our aquifer? What will you do to ensure that the Town Code is corrected to adapt to these changes in water quality?
Larry Cantwell: I support the Town's Wastewater Management Study. This is intended to analyze the septic waste systems throughout East Hampton Town and identify individual systems that are failing and may be creating nitrogen loading and impacting groundwater and surface water. It is also intended to propose specific alternatives to replace such systems and make recommendations on alternatives to the current scavenger waste plant.
I am proposing a hazard mitigation and recovery plan to complete the town waterfront revitalization plan. In the face of climate change, sea-level rise, and the strong possibility of more frequent coastal events, East Hampton must prepare better to protect the community and adopt very specific mitigation measures and in case of a catastrophic event we must outline a recovery plan in advance.
The town must be more aggressive in its effort to preserve open space, including wetlands and water recharge areas. With over $40 million currently available in CPF there is an great opportunity to do so.
Job Potter: Salt water intrusion into the aquifer increases the importance of protecting our groundwater, especially in the higher elevation recharge areas. We can expect to see increasing need for extension of public water to low-lying coastal areas, and have to be sure that zoning prevents that from translating into increased density, or the building of mega-mansions in communities which previously had smaller houses.
Kathee Burke-Gonzalez: The town has made a start on septic system review. A project to see this through to the actual renovation of inferior cesspools along the shoreline is critical, and will require dedication by the town board, and pursuit of all possible grants to help finance this work. It is important to stress water conservation as well, especially where small septic systems are close to groundwater.
East Hampton depends on its pure groundwater resources for its drinking water. Our clean coastal waters drive the engine of our tourism and second home economy. We need to be vigilant and active to preserve the quality of our aquifer and coastal waters. And we need to be fully committed to the local and regional programs that keep our harbors and bays clean.
First and for most we have to be vigilant about the codes we have on the books. Share houses, overcrowded nightclubs, heavy usage of pesticides and herbicides, and road run-off have taxed our drinking water and surface waters to the nth degree all over the town. We have to enforce the laws we have right now. We must be especially vigilant around our water bodies and our ground water protection areas in Northwest and everywhere else on Long Island. We also need synergy from administration to administration. Our Natural Resources Department has to play a key role to maintain that synergy. Otherwise we'll just keep spinning our wheels and a lot of good ideas and hard work will be lost and water quality will continue its downward spiral.
The impacts of global climate change, sea-level rise, and more frequent storms require that we plan better and evaluate our thinking about adaption. One critical element of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan left unfinished is a Hazard Mitigation and Recovery Plan, the purpose of which is to identify hazards and areas of vulnerability along our shoreline so we can take positive action and build resiliency in advance to limit damage from serious storms and hurricanes in the future. While many miles of our coastline have been permanently preserved over the years, we must identify future acquisitions and use the Community Preservation Fund to preserve more of our coastal properties. The natural protection of waterfront property is our best insurance policy.
We should also be planning for recovery in case of a catastrophic event caused by a hurricane. We need to identify our potential losses so we can anticipate the immediate steps to take to expedite recovery and return essential services to the community.
The East Hampton Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP) will provide executive level planning for addressing the Town’s wastewater, scavenger waste and water quality issues. Once the master plan is completed, the newly elected Town Board will then be given the opportunity to authorize engineering plans for wastewater and scavenger waste management improvements and the establishment of water quality monitoring. We need to support these efforts.
As I understand it, Northwest Harbor and Northwest Creek will most likely be identified as a high priority in the upcoming CWMP recommendations as the depth to groundwater is 0 to 2 feet, according to Pio Lombardo’s presentation to the community on August 26th. As Mr. Lombardo pointed out in his presentation, the areas in red, which includes Northwest Harbor and particularly Northwest Creek, would be identified as a high priority. Here’s the link to the map he presented: http://ehwaterrestore.com/pdf/maps/12-Depth-to-Groundwater.pdf
Dominick Stanzione. I will try to continue what have already done to ensure estuary and ground water protection.“Bayside” coastal areas, including wetland retreats, and ground water aquifers are essential to our environmental and economic health. My admonition that “Our Environment and Our Economy Are One” has become a popular political slogan. Let’s hope it sticks.
In 2011, I asked the Planning Department and the Natural Resources Department to help me organize the East Hampton Inter-Departmental MS-4 Working Group. This ad hoc, shirt-sleeve working-group, began meeting and consists of heads of each department and focuses on the Town’s emerging environmental responsibilities under the Clean Water Act. In the immediate, the group had to deal directly with the NYS storm-water management mandates that the town was/is required to meet. We had a looming deadline and failure to meet the mandates meant substantial fines to the Town and ultimately to its taxpayers.
The Group’s first mission, then, was to develop a plan for storm water management that met the mandates of the Municipal Separate StormWater System (MS4) program. Under the leadership of our Natural Resources Department, the group produced The East Hampton Storm Water Management Plan that met the appropriate requirements of the Environmental Conservation Law and Clean Water Act. It took real work by real people in our town’s employ and I’m proud to work side-by-side with them on behalf of our whole community. The East Hampton StormWater Management Plan is available on the town website. It should make you proud as well.
In addition to the environmental impacts of storm-water run-off, my work on a town-wide comprehensive waste-water management plan has been called one of the significant environmental and water-quality initiatives of the past decade. It’s satisfying the initiative is seen as having meaningful environmental significance. I thought it necessary in order to put action behind the words of prioritizing our water quality. Real credit goes to those who thought it worthy of support. We could not have succeeded without real support from all-quarters of our community, including often opposing environmental and business coalitions. We needed “upfront” agreement from both business and environmental leaders on this next stage community concept – where our economy and our environment are seen as one --- and also to obtain three votes on the town board. The comprehensive waste-water initiative received support from environmental organizations across the region, including the Peconic Baykeeper, the Group for the East End, and Concerned Citizens of Montauk. Businesses leaders from across town encouraged and supported the initiative. I am especially grateful for the strong public support from such iconic environmental leaders as NYS Senator Ken La Valle, NYS Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, without which we may not have succeeded. The study has begun and we await its findings. Hopefully, we will use it as a bridge that truly unites our economy and environment.
Question 2. Northwest Creek Sand Bar. The Northwest Creek, once listed as the most pristine and fertile estuary in the northeastern US, in recent years has been in unrelenting ecological decline. The Creek has been closed to shell fishing for several years because of water contamination. Experts believe this is related to the growing sandbar between the Creek and Northwest harbor. The required dredging is currently in the hands of the Suffolk county Department of Public Works – they claim that they will dredge based only on navigational needs, not environmental needs. What will you do to address this governmental impasse which threatens the biological viability of Northwest Creek?
Larry Cantwell: I would start by trying to understand the source of water contamination to Northwest Creek and perhaps this is a specific area to be analyzed as part of the Wastewater Management Study with a review of septic waste and road runoff as possible sources. My first concern is with the source of contaminants that may be causing the water quality decline.
Job Potter: Though limited, there is navigation into Northwest Creek, and a bulkhead used by boats, as well as a county park. I would recommend an objective study of the creek, partly to determine if the poor water quality results from animal waste, and if that factor has changed historically. Are the water depths throughout the creek changing? What inevitable natural processes might be happening?
The original channel was to the east of the present channel. Manmade changes have caused the problems perhaps, demanding a "manmade" solution. Longer term, what is the management plan for the channel? Bottom line, should the town pay for the dredging, if the County won't? Are there other grants to be had? These are more questions than answers... Let's start with Town Board attention and a management plan, and bring in New York State and Suffolk County as adjoining property owners and partners in preserving the creek.
Kathee Burke-Gonzalez The real issues here are that upland contaminates are killing the water body and the hope is that dredging will promote better flushing and restore the creek. We need both areas addressed. As I stated earlier it is my understanding that Northwest Harbor and Northwest Creek will most likely be identified as a high priority in the upcoming CWMP recommendations. This is an important first step. Engineering studies will need to be authorized to better understand the cause of the contamination and then mitigation plans will need to be put in place. In conjunction with these findings we need to develop community-wide education and outreach efforts. And we need to lobby our county and state representatives to take action.
Dominick Stanzione. Dredging of Northwest Creek was completed in winter of 2012-2013 by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works under an initinative made to address inter-governmental bottlenecks and regulatory limitations. As I recall, the dredging was technically requested using “navigational criteria” simply because it provided East Hampton with absolute fastest path to action for NW Creek. The environmental criteria simply did not exist under the County’s dredge committee process. However, under a new program established with the leadership of County Legislator Jay Scheiderman – that specifically expands the County’s regulatory criteria for dredging to include “environmental needs,” East Hampton Trustees and the Town East Hampton can now to apply for Suffolk County dredging at NW Creek for “environmental needs.” The County has established a rigorous environmental test but we already have begun. We have submitted our Priority Dredge List to the Dredge Committee as part of that application---and it includes NW Creek. Our application, would be the first approved under the new environmental dredge criteria on the East End. I think it speaks to the leadership of our Natural Resources Department---to which I was liaison from 2010 to 2012. While this is certainly welcome news, it will take time. We also should explore all private/public initiatives and opportunities for funding of environmentally sensitive dredging program at Northwest Creek.
Question 3. Aircraft Noise. The Northwest Alliance has repeatedly expressed its concerns about the destructive effects of aircraft noise on the natural habitat of our preserved areas. The Town has recently rerouted helicopter traffic over Barcelona Neck in the Northwest Creek area – and has done this without notice to or discussion with town residents. What will you do to create and maintain a balanced and informed discussion of the issue of effects of aircraft noise on wildlife habitat protection?
Larry Cantwell: It is unfortunate that unilateral decisions have been made regarding the East Hampton Airport. It is apparent that changes in helicopter routes and airport expenses have been made without a full vetting by the full town board full public participation. This must change. We have to find a much better balance between the needs of the airport and the growing foot print of aircraft noise especially from helicopters.
Job Potter: The town must involve all interested parties in any route changes regarding traffic. This should be done only with public hearings. In general, local control of the airport is a top priority, and the town should be pursue a noise study, financial analysis, and move toward legally permissible restrictions to ease the impact on neighborhoods. The problem is that natural areas are likely to be targeting for routing, as this practice moves traffic away from houses. At the least, there needs to be pressure put on operators to fly at the highest practicable and safe altitude to lessen the impact.
Kathee Burke-Gonzalez: With regard to East Hampton Airport, decisions of late have been made without public participation. It is my belief that there needs to be a return to open governance to help rebuild the public’s trust and satisfaction in Town government. And it starts with public participation and transparency. Our citizens play a valuable role and should have opportunities to participate, collaborate and assist in problem solving whenever possible. Should I be elected, I will pursue more informed decision-making and consensus building. In addition, information should be published online for easy accessibility to the public. This includes agendas, management studies, financials, contracts, and other public records and data. Public meeting agendas should also be made available well in advance of Town Board meetings.
Theoretically, the Town has local control of the airport as the proprietor and exercises its control through Airport Master and Airport Layout Plans. However, the Town has the potential to exercise a good deal more local control. To that end, the Town should complete on-going technical studies to establish that East Hampton is a quiet community and that airport access restrictions, can significantly reduce airport noise. If in the next year such studies demonstrate justification for restrictions, mandatory curfews and limits on the numbers of flights and the types of aircraft permitted could be upheld. This would be a major step forward in managing aircraft noise.
In addition, the Town must complete a professional and objective financial analysis of the Airport including possible new revenue streams. This report/business plan must identify how the airport can best be financed and help answer the question of whether or not FAA funds should be secured to make East Hampton Airport as safe and as quiet as possible without burdening Town taxpayers.
Dominick Stanzione. A balanced and informed discussion about the negative effects of aircraft noise on wildlife habitat protection is an important component of the place the aviation plays in our society. Aviation has significant economic and societal benefits— and that should be thoughtfully weighed against impositions aviation activity creates. Of course, closing the East Hampton airport, would be an absolute fix for eliminating wildlife impacts by aviation---that is an option some express privately and publicly. I oppose any notion to close our airport.
Impacts upon wildlife are among aviation’s obvious impositions and a balanced discussion should always be welcomed. Recently, there was serious concern that summer-season aviation could have a negative impact on white-tail deer reproductive activity. While exhaustive scientific evidence is not available at this time, anecdotal evidence suggests deer reproductive activity has not been meaningfully impacted by summer-season aviation activity. Of course, further scientific study may reveal otherwise. We can agree on this: wildlife remains a precious public resource and we should endeavor to protect it.
Northwest Alliance Steering Committee