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Oyster Bay Town Expects to Preserve Massapequa Creek Watershed

Federal Grant Used for Study on Improving Water Quality, Others

The Town of Oyster Bay, with the help of an $88,000 federal grant, recently unveiled the final draft of the Massapequa Creek Watershed Management and Corridor Restoration Plan at a public hearing held in June.

The grant was awarded to the town in 2001 under title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund, in hopes that the 6.67-square mile watershed would be cleaned up and protected. The plan is part of a bigger environmental pursuit that was adopted on April 12, 2001, called the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Comprehensive Management Plan.

The Massapequa Creek Watershed stretches southward from Bethpage State Park, making its way through portions of Bethpage, Farmingdale, Massapequa Park, Biltmore Shores, North Massapequa and Massapequa, ultimately depositing into the waters of South Oyster Bay/South Shore Estuary. It is the largest watershed basin in Oyster Bay, containing a variety of coastal streams, ponds, lakes/reservoirs, and freshwater and tidal wetlands that supports an elaborate assortment of vegetation and wildlife.

Requirements for properly restoring and preserving the valued natural resource are provided in the 136-page plan that traverses along an assortment of categories. The plan explains the history surrounding the genesis of the project itself, the many studies involved, and the corrective measures that address pollutant sources such as soil and storm water runoff, erosion, illegal dumping and land over-development, all of which directly affect the health of the ecosystem.

The town’s overall goals for the area, as outlined in the document, include improving the quality of water discharging into South Oyster Bay, enhancing and maintaining the biological integrity of the Massapequa Corridor, protecting the natural and open space of the watershed for public enjoyment and restoring habitats and living resources within the corridor.

The town also hopes to provide a guided framework to help restore, manage and preserve the creek and its watershed, create a process to measure the creek’s restoration progress, to encourage and support educational programs and public outreach that promotes the protection and restoration of the area, and recommend methods to improve legal jurisdiction to control nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution occurs when rainfall or snowmelt gathers natural and human made pollutants, such as fertilizers, oil, and other toxic chemicals from urban areas, as it moves over and through the ground, depositing them into waterways.

With population rising and land over-development becoming an increased concern, storm water runoff and how it affects the creek and the watershed corridor is a focal point in the plan. Runoff occurs as water flows over land or surfaces like paved streets, parking lots and rooftops and does not get absorbed by the land surface, but instead rushes along to sweep up debris, chemicals, sediment, and other pollutants that deposit into waterways untreated.

To remove pollutants, restoring water quality, recommendations incorporate vegetative, structural, and non-structural practices. Vegetative refers to using soil and vegetation to organically treat storm water runoff, structural refers to constructing and installing man-made devices like trenches, wells and catch basins and non-structural practices refer to operational and management methods such as irrigation management, pesticide management education, and erosion and sedimentation control ordinances.

When asked if any of these practices have been used by the town before, Councilman Anthony D. Macagnone told the Farmingdale Observer, “Yes we have, behind the Farmingdale High School. We put in special catch basins in the creek.”

Macagnone also spoke about his concerns for the future and the clear message he hopes will be communicated through the plan.

“My biggest thing is educating the public and how we can dispose of pollutants and prevent this stuff from happening,” he said.

To protect and restore the water quality and resources, the town plans on revising local land and water use and they have outlined steps to achieve this goal.

The town has said in its written plan that it hopes to control erosion and sedimentation, incorporate vegetative buffers into development approvals, promote stabilization of soils after development, requiring proper storage, application, handling and disposal of trash, pesticides, fertilizers, and other potentially harmful materials, and ensure the proper operation and maintenance of drainage controls.

What the town has not said is exactly how or when they plan on doing all of this. They are open for a 30-day public comment period that ends July 22. Comments can be submitted through the town Web site and the plan can be viewed at www.estuary.cog.ny.us. After the 30-day period ends, the town will assess the need for revisions, eventually leading to plan adoption, but no date has been scheduled at this time, according to a town spokesperson.

Farmingdale Village also has a stake in the plan with steps to revise its code or develop review policies to minimize cut-and-fill operations, which is cutting into a slope or hillside, removing all the material and then using it to fill and place concrete onto the leveled out area. This practice can be problematic as it increases erosion to the slope and creates further runoff, thereby carrying more sediment into rivers and lakes without penetrating into the soil. Additionally, the village will also require proper grading of topsoil and maintaining runoff rates similar to pre-construction levels, recharging all storm water from a property on-site.

As to the hazy timeline in the plan, “There is no time frame at this time,” town spokeswoman Phyllis Barry told the Observer. “They will all be worked out after it is adopted. Implementation is dependant on availability of funds. Our grants people will look into grant funding for certain things recommended in the plan. If a grant becomes available for a particular project then that particular project will be undertaken first.”

One organization that is already doing many of the things recommended in the plan is The Friends of Massapequa Preserve, a 400-member, non-profit group that focuses on increasing public awareness by promoting educational activities and encouraging the proper stewardship and appreciation of the Massapequa Preserve. One of their best-known projects is the 2004 documentary video, Massapequa Preserve: A Natural Wonder In Your Own Backyard. The award-winning film, which was featured at the Long Island Film Expo, called attention to the warning signs surrounding the preserve.

Richard Schary, president of the organization, was happy with the blueprint for action proposed by the town.

“We helped guide this study and we are in sync with the town,” he said. “We’ve got to clean up the waterways and you’ve got to have a plan; this is great background information. We can constantly refer to it in the future.”