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State issues Huntington warning over river rocks at park

River rocks were placed by the town near

River rocks were placed by the town near the Heckscher Park pond in Huntington. Credit: Newsday / Deborah S. Morris

The State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a warning following an investigation into the placement of stones without a permit by Town of Huntington in a wetland area in Heckscher Park.

A DEC representative said Friday that the investigation, which began in early September, was completed and found that depositing approximately four stones near regulated freshwater wetland and installing a storm drain pipe at the site are activities that require a DEC permit. 

“DEC advised town officials of the violation and informed them it must contact DEC permits for similar activities in the future,” the DEC email said.

State officials said they will not force the town to remove the stones or the drain pipe, but warned of doing future work without proper permits.

The work did not appear to result in any significant impact to the wetland, Kevin Jennings, the DEC’s regional manager of the Bureau of Eco Systems, wrote in an Oct. 17 letter to Greg Wagner, the Town of Huntington’s Department of Parks director.

“Please be advised that future activities that are done without a permit may result in fines and or restoration of the impacted area,” Jennings said in the letter.

Huntington spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said in an email to Newsday before the DEC completed its investigation that town officials were not aware of the state probe and accused "political opponents" of calling the state and the media just before Election Day.

Lembo said the Huntington Department of General Services in August asked for an opinion from the town’s Environmental Projects coordinator, Robert Litzke, on whether permits or permission were required to place river rocks provided by the Highway Department next to the sidewalk adjacent to Heckscher Pond to address erosion issues.

Litzke didn’t see a need for a permit as long the work is maintaining and/or improving what is already there, Lembo said.

In an email Sunday, Lembo said, “The [DEC] letter confirms our previous statement: there was no violation and this is a non-issue.”

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