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Groups want park at Shoreham site being eyed for solar farm

An aerial view of the Shoreham power plant

An aerial view of the Shoreham power plant in July 13, 2015. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Eighteen environmental and civic groups joined with Long Island lawmakers to request that land surrounding the Shoreham nuclear power plant site — much of which has been eyed for a solar farm — be preserved as a state park.

The proposal would create a “shore-to-shore” patchwork of federal, state and county parks, tying the Long Island Sound coastline with mid-island pine barrens forests to the Great South Bay shoreline.

“This is the missing piece” to complete a north-south hiking trail, said Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), one of several lawmakers advocating for the park. “This piece is just remarkable. The terrain is very rugged and washboardlike in its aspect.”

At the same time, state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said he is working on a bill that would make the Shoreham property part of the core Central Pine Barrens region.

“We are working on a stand-alone bill,” LaValle said Friday. “The overwhelming input has been to preserve this land and we’ve talked about Pine Barrens” designation. “And people are OK with that. There are a lot of people who use that land to hike on right now.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said he has spoken with LaValle about the proposal.

In a Wednesday letter to Rose Harvey, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, the 18 groups said the 800-plus acres of “undeveloped and vegetated land at Shoreham constitutes one of the top four unprotected natural areas remaining on all of Long Island.”

Land owner National Grid wants to use half the land south of North Country Road as a 72-megawatt solar farm. It is working with NextEra on a proposal for LIPA that would include preserving 300 acres on the north side of North Country Road, which fronts Long Island Sound.

“Given its size, location on the shoreline of Long Island Sound and ecological/environmental attributes, the Shoreham Property strongly merits acquisition as New York’s next ‘Great State Park,’ ” the groups wrote. “To this end, the property is eligible for state acquisition funding as it has been included in Governor Cuomo’s 2016 iteration of the New York State Open Space Conservation Plan.”

The letter was signed by leaders of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, Save the Sound, Sierra Club Long Island and the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, among many others.

A State Parks Department spokesman didn’t immediately have a comment.

A study of the property by the New York Natural Heritage Program documented the “exceptional ecological diversity” of the Shoreham property. That includes 25 forest, wetland and shoreline ecological communities, rare plants, a salt marsh in the northeastern corner that is “especially rich in rare species,” and hundreds of various species. The latter includes waterfowl such as kingfishers, and wading birds, warblers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes, and several species of hawks and owls.

A spokesman for the National Grid/NextEra solar initiative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other groups who signed the letter include Peconic Green Growth, Ridge Civic Association, Save The Great South Bay, the Greater Jamesport Civic Association, the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, the Associated Brookhaven Civic Organization, and Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society.

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