Protecting the town’s land and water resources

TIM KELLY PHOTO  |  A man searches West Creek in New Suffolk for blue-claw crabs just after sunset this past summer.
TIM KELLY PHOTO | A man searches West Creek in New Suffolk for blue-claw crabs just after sunset this past summer.

When Southold Town planner Mark Terry sat down last year to write the natural resources chapter of the town’s comprehensive plan update, he had enough material for a book.

The long-awaited chapter, which highlights the best ways to protect the town’s land and water resources, has since been broken into two parts. The first, on water resources, was released by the planning department this week.

The town will hold two public meetings — on Thursday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 2 — at which residents can air their views on the chapter. The Jan. 31 meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Peconic Community Center on Peconic Lane and the Feb. 2 session starts at 10 a.m. at Poquatuck Hall in Orient.

Mr. Terry presented the plan to the Southold Town Board at its Tuesday work session. He said the water section is much more in-depth than the land section, since so many of Southold’s most crucial environmental issues are water-related.

The section deals with groundwater quantity issues and includes water conservation suggestions such as establishing odd-even irrigation days during droughts.

“Everybody on the West End has had this for many years,” said Planning Board chairman Don Wilcenski.

The chapter also addresses water quality for both surface and groundwater and recommends that the town form a water quality committee charged with addressing pollution issues.

Councilman Bill Ruland said he hopes the final draft makes clear that Southold is not going to bend to the will of the Suffolk County Water Authority, and will maintain local oversight of its water issues.

Echoing a claim made often during the authority’s unsuccessful efforts two years ago to expand its service in Orient, the councilman described the water authority as a private agency operating in collusion with the Suffolk County Health Department.

“Sometimes, the degree to which they flex their muscles intimidates the little guy,” he said.

Mr. Ruland added that when many people in Orient said they didn’t public water extended there, the water authority refused to poll residents on their preference.

“We tried to put together a plan that allows the town to take responsibility for its water,” said Mr. Terry.

The planning department is expected to post the water quality chapter on the town’s website this week.

Later in February, the Orient Association will hold a separate meeting at Poquatuck Hall on wastewater issues.

That meeting, set for Saturday, Feb. 16, will include an informational survey on existing septic systems on the North Fork and information on new approaches to reducing septic system pollution.

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