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Town to Help Fund Peconic Estuary Partnership

Thu, 04/22/2021 - 12:18

A request from State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele and environmental advocates that East Hampton Town allocate 2 percent of funds it receives from the Peconic Bay Region's Community Preservation Fund to the Peconic Estuary Partnership was endorsed by the town board on Tuesday.

New York State amended the C.P.F., which is funded by a 2-percent real estate transfer tax, in 2015 to allow up to 20 percent of its revenues to be allocated to water quality improvement projects. Ten percent of that 20 percent, or 2 percent over all, can be used to support the estuary partnership as a match for federal, state, county, or other funding. The federal Environmental Protection Agency presently contributes $700,000 to the partnership.

With Mr. Thiele at the board's virtual meeting were Joyce Novak, the partnership's director, and Kevin McDonald of the Nature Conservancy. Mr. Thiele emphasized the importance of a regional approach to water quality improvement. The Peconic Estuary Partnership, he said, "is going to be a critical part of our efforts across Long Island to restore water quality and to protect clean water." 

He invoked "that great philosopher" and former East Hampton Town Supervisor, Tony Bullock, "who, in referring to the estuary program, used to compare it to a bathtub: When you were a small child in the bathtub with your siblings, what one child did in the bathtub affected all the children in the bathtub. That's why we need a regional effort when it comes to the estuary program, and this is the mechanism by which to do that."

East Hampton's annual contribution to the Peconic Estuary Program would be phased in over three years, with a 50-percent contribution this year, followed by 75 percent in 2022 and 100 percent in 2023. With each of the five East End towns participating, East Hampton's share of the $700,000 match of the E.P.A. contribution would be $99,050 this year, rising to $198,100 in 2023. The program would be evaluated at the end of the three-year term, but the expectation is that it would continue beyond that period. 

Southampton Town has committed to its funding share, Mr. McDonald said, "and we have reason to believe that some of the other towns will as well. This could be a wonderful opportunity for this all to come together." 

Ms. Novak referred to the bay scallop die-off of 2019 and last year, and to the partnership's convening of a task force in response. "In doing so, we managed to help secure $615,000 directly to Stony Brook [University] researchers who were doing this and who very much believe that restoration is possible." That effort is "a very good example of the need for a holistic approach," she said, "and how contributing as five East End towns to the program benefits everybody." 

The estuary program, she said, seeks local buy-in, both monetarily and in the form of community engagement. "We are concentrated on the East End of Long Island, and I think it's extremely important that the towns come together to not only support us but to guide us and be a driving force in P.E.P." 

Board members were enthusiastic. "This is the easiest ask I've heard since I've been on the town board," said Councilman Jeff Bragman, who said he would support the annual contribution beyond 2023. "We're all in this together. I like to say we all drink from the same well." 

"The Peconic Estuary is so important to everyone within the region -- economically, environmentally, culturally," said Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. "We've been very active in East Hampton, but we understand it's a region and we all need to work together within the region. I fully support the contributions." 



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