SUFFOLK COUNTY

Rotary clubs combine for water quality efforts

Linda Leuzzi
Posted 3/12/20

Creating a breach at Gilgo State Park? Maybe.

An educational environmental event at Heckscher State Park? Perhaps.

Those two possibilities were presented last Thursday night when five South …

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SUFFOLK COUNTY

Rotary clubs combine for water quality efforts

Posted

Creating a breach at Gilgo State Park? Maybe.

An educational environmental event at Heckscher State Park? Perhaps.

Those two possibilities were presented last Thursday night when five South Shore Rotary clubs gathered to interact with four environmental nonprofits at the Irish Coffee Pub.

Choosing to listen about how our water- ways can be cleaned and protected instead of an early St. Patrick’s celebration might not be the choice of some, but 80 people plunged right in.

The event is a 2020 commitment by several Rotary clubs that start- ed with a discussion between Patchogue, Bellport, Sayville and Islip at a joint meeting last November, to support projects with local nonprofits they’ve identified that protect the Great South Bay and adjacent creeks and waterways. Now Babylon has stepped into the groundswell effort as well.

“You have 10 minutes,” announced Patchogue president Brian McAuliff, organizing tables to enter an over- flow room. Folks got up, asked ques- tions and listened to Oyster Growers and bay man Keenan Boyle, Fire Island National Seashore Park planner Kaetlyn Jackson, Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito, and Save the Great South Bay executive director and founder Marshall Brown, as they rotated tables. McAuliff, who was sworn in last summer as president at Watch Hill, initiated the envi- ronmental focus. Sayville was next, then Bellport, and then Islip came on board.

While photos by Ted Kremer flashed on a screen of Great South Bay sailing scenes, wildlife, sunrises, kayakers and other descriptive water views, discussions with the environ- mental guests proved informing.

“I didn’t know the effect invasive species has,” commented Janet Draffin, of Bayport, returning from a discussion.

“When I did cleanups I was only thinking of garbage,” agreed Sayville resident Debbie Walsh.

It was like that all evening as members returned with new information. Each club has already dedicated volunteers for cleanups as well as funding environmental not-for-prof- its in their areas and would continue, but this was a bigger push; nearly all members had fond childhood memories of a clean bay.

And it wasn’t anymore. Sayville president Bob Draffin commented that the endless studies compiled now need more progressive action.

“We’ve been involved with Save the Great South Bay and its Creek Defenders Program,” explained James Kanzler, president of the Babylon club, the latest to join. “I look at this as a meeting to start a dialogue and hope to have a huge event at Heckscher State Park next year,” he said. “The pillar of this project is to help produce clean bay water and clean drinking water. We’re looking for support from Rotary International.”

Former Suffolk County legislator and general manager of the Long Island State Parks Commission Wayne Horsley, a Babylon Rotarian, said he’d been stirring the pot with a number of folks regarding a breach creation at Gilgo State Park. Save the Great South Bay, which was birthed in 2012 when the Sayville Class of 1977 celebrated its 35th reunion and collectively was alarmed at the state of the bay, has been active with a website, programs and articles; Horsley wrote an opinion piece last October on the issue.

“We’re looking at creating a storm gated non-navigable engineered inlet,” he said. “We have Stony Brook (University School of Marine and Atmospheric Science) looking at it. There was once an inlet there but Robert Moses (the master builder who created Ocean Parkway) closed it up. We’ll be working on it.”

Creating a possible Gilgo State Park breach

Former Suffolk County legislator and general manager of the Long Island State Parks Commission Wayne Horsley referred to the Old Inlet breach in Bellport that opened up when Superstorm Sandy hit, cleaning the bay waters there and in the Moriches.

He’s hoping to create one at Gilgo State Park.

WHY DO IT?

“Every three years, the Army Corps of Engineers renourishes the beach at Gilgo State Park with sand because it scours out,”hesaid.“ThewaterbyOceanParkway wants to breach at that location; Sandy did breach it. There was also an inlet there once; Robert Moses took Muncie Island down and filled it in with sand.”

WHAT ABOUT OCEAN PARKWAY?

Ocean Parkway would stay put, should a breach be approved.

“You would cut out a piece for the breach that boats can’t go through and construct an overpass,” he said.

ADVANTAGES

Before the Bellport breach, it took 19 days for water to enter and exit the area, Horsley said. “With the new inlet, it went down to four to five days and that’s why it’s flourishing there,” he said, of the flushing action. “You’re seeing bluefish and weak- fish and all sorts of sea life, but not on the western end. There we have brown tide and different types of algae.”

NEXT STEPS

Malcolm Bowman and Charlie Flagg
from Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Science were approached to model the flow of water and assess if a breach would work. Flagg said the question was whether an artificial breach would increase the exchange with the ocean and reduce pollution. “Malcolm is working on models to understand if you would put in a flood gate, would it reduce flooding, would it increase circulation,” said Flagg, a research professor. Horsley has also received signatures supporting a study from Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (Lindenhurst) and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (East Setauket) to give to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie with several other assembly people urging its inclusion in the state budget, about $190,000. If a study is approved, then issues like how big should the breach be to be useful, and how would it be achieved would be next. “The detail is a long way down the road,” Flagg said.

COST

Several millions, Horsley said. “There’s many up and down the east coast, including Connecticut and Rhode Island,” he said of other created breaches. “No one’s argued with me, but they say it’s a big lift.”

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