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Apr 26, 2011 4:44 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Lake Montauk Study Gains Steam

Apr 26, 2011 5:09 PM

With fishing boats and a Coast Guard cutter docked outside, Lake Montauk was both backdrop and focus at an April 20 meeting at the Montauk Coast Guard station. After a break of more than a year, a committee overseeing a study of the lake’s health listened to an update from Larry Penny, East Hampton Town’s natural resources director, who has been leading the effort since 2008.

Whether the study is progressing as it should—it’s due to the state August 11—and whether Lake Montauk is in good health were matters of debate. Mr. Penny presented a list of studies and projects “completed and almost completed” and of those that were ongoing, while Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson drilled him for details. So far, many results are promising, Mr. Penny indicated: “a pretty good mix of species” of seaweed, three “polishing ponds” reducing runoff and a lake bottom that is “one of the cleanest we’ve ever seen.”

Rav Freidel, a member of the committee and the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, objected to Mr. Penny’s assertion that a study of the bottomland near Peter Kalikow’s dock was complete.

“There’s not a word about the boat lift,” Mr. Freidel said. “The ZBA’s making decisions right now based on this study. You’re saying it’s complete. I’m saying it’s not.” He took issue, too, with a coliform study being conducted by Cornell Cooperative Extension, saying that other pollutants should be studied as well.

Mr. Penny said that with a $75,000 grant, which is coming from the State Department of State, that would not be practical.

Stuart Heath, a bayman, said he’d already hauled $200 worth of clams that morning, suggesting that the lake was in pretty good shape. “You want to learn about that lake?” he told committee members. “I’ll take you out there any time.” However, he said, the cutter Ridley was right then being sanded at the dock, leaving a “slick of paint chips.”

Jay Fruin of the Surfrider Foundation, another committee member, disputed Mr. Heath’s contention that the lake was doing well. Compared to when he scalloped “way before you were,” he told Mr. Heath, when he paddles on the lake now, “the eelgrass is gone.”

He blamed boat waste, but Ed Michels of the Town Marine Patrol, another committee member, disputed that. He said the town’s pumpout boat fills up regularly on summer weekends, and that “every time a boat is boarded the tank is checked.” Mr. Penny backed him up, saying that back in 1985-86, before a no-discharge zone was in place, coliform levels around boats would rise over a single summer weekend. “So I think we have made progress there,” Mr. Penny said.

Jimmy Hewitt, a committee member who grows oysters at the lake’s south end, asked that a culvert under the Star Island causeway be reopened to help flush out his part of the lake. “Waiting for all these studies is bullshit,” he said. “We need two guys and a shovel.”

“It’s not nearly as simple as you’re portraying it to be,” said Keith Grimes, a marine contractor and committee member.

Mr. Penny and many others on the committee, including Mr. Grimes and Mr. Hewitt, agreed that dredging would flush out the lake. While Mr. Freidel said that could hurt eelgrass, Mr. Penny said it would not. “We don’t go through eelgrass,” he said.

“We’ve got to get on the Army Corps on this,” said Town Trustee Joe Bloecker, another committee member. The corps is expected to dredge the lake in 2013.

“The problem is that it’s temporary,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “Unless you dredge on a routine basis, you’re going to get these problems.”

Julie Evans-Brunn, a member of the committee, the Concerned Citizens, and the Montauk Boatmen’s and Captains’ Association, said that a CCOM study had found more coliform at Coonsfoot Cove than at the south end.

Brian Frank, a town planner and committee member, and Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper, said they wanted the study to look at trends as well as static data.

“The lake is not such a bad lake,” Mr. Penny said. “It’s doing pretty damn well in terms of its flora and fauna.”

Mr. Wilkinson suggested that the group “fast-forward some of this data and see what the trends are.”

“Please let’s not just move forward only dealing with the symptoms,” Mr. McAllister said. The disease, he said, was septic waste, particular at Ditch Plains, where the water table is high and the housing is dense. “Basically that’s a big teabag seeping” down to the lake, he said.

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Doesn't everyone who knows Jay Fruin know he is one of those typical guys who's always been here before you, caught more clams then you, caught more fish then you no matter what it is he's better than you, blah, blah, blah? Same story, different day. Isn't it funny its coming from a guy that grew up up west and whos only legacy "as a local" is because he married a local woman? Jay Fruin tells Stuart Heath that he's been here longer what a joke. Percy (God rest his soul) and his family were here ...more
By HappyQuahog (5), East Hampton on Apr 27, 11 9:35 PM
Better recaption your picture with Keith Grimes in it . . . don't see Wilkinson in it . . . keep up the good work!
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Apr 28, 11 11:21 PM
Imagine a sane person sat in on this meeting. When they left they would be ready for a straight jacket. Are you kidding me? If this article is an accurate discription of the proceedings (and I bet it is) there's no hope. Just read it again. Fact
By facts man (148), east hampton on May 1, 11 7:28 PM
We have made proposal's as of late and have had our story published in 27 East recently. We have presented through town hall meetings with Mill Pond for our all natural restoration process with Clean-Flo International and Floating Islands International processes. Please call to schedule a meeting for your township if you want a town hall meeting of your own. (914) 260-5678 Jack Mosel, Aquatic Restoration consultant, Lake Savers.
By moseljack (3), Carmel on May 18, 11 11:04 PM