While Save The Great South Bay, 501(c)3 understands and supports the need for emergency dredging along the Brown’s River for safety and navigational purposes, we must express our opposition to the removal of the long established Red Maple Swamp Forest on the southern portion of the chosen spoils site. Spoils are the muck, 90% of which is water, that gets pulled out of the waterway and is put up on land to dewater for about a year before being moved to the Town landfill.
Site Not Used in Decades
It is only recently (12/20/21) that the exact location of the spoils site (B) has become sufficiently clear. While we understand this was a previously designated spoils site and all permits have been acquired to continue that use, its non-use since approximately 1984 has allowed ecological succession in the form of a Red Maple Swamp Forest. We question whether a full vegetative study was completed of the area prior to permits being issued.
This habitat is important to the environment for several reasons: it provides storm surge protection for local properties to protect them against flooding and it provides a natural habitat to a plethora of native species including the Great Blue Heron. The existing biome was created over decades and cannot be simply replicated.
Alternative Areas in the Immediate Area
There are existing County-owned lands in the immediate surrounding areas that are overrun by the invasive Phragmites which would make a more suitable location for spoils. While this might require some legwork to amend the permits to redirect the spoils and possibly some cost to create dykes, it would avoid the more costly alternative of clearing the southern portion of the land as well as the cost of attempting to offset that loss of habitat with additional plantings elsewhere.
Further, should the spoils site be moved to cover the Phragmites, on the nearby Merrill Mason Island for example, the spoils could be used as a base to restore additional native habitat.
To avoid this situation in the future, it is necessary for stakeholders to be included much earlier in the planning process. In particular, our organization has a vested interest in projects that directly affect the Great South Bay from Massapequa to Mastic Beach and as far north as the creek headwaters.
We Can Do Better
We urge the County, State and Federal agents involved in this project to consider the alternatives to protect the environment while serving the needs of the community.
Drone footage of the Brown’s River and spoil sites graciously captured with permit by Steve Borghardt on 12/26/21.