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Smithtown to vote on joining group to protect Lake Ronkonkoma

The lake has been a place of haunting

The lake has been a place of haunting mystery since the mid-1660s when, according to legend, a lovesick Indian princess killed herself in the waters after her chieftain father forbade her relationship with a white settler. Some legend believers attribute the lake's high percentage of male drowning victims through the centuries to the princess' ghost claiming lives in retaliation for her unfulfilled love. Other legends have depicted the mile-wide kettle lake as being bottomless or having underground connections to other local waterways since some victims or objects disappearing into the waters would not be found. Credit: Brittany Wait

Smithtown officials plan to vote on joining a group that includes two other towns as well as Suffolk County and is dedicated to protecting Lake Ronkonkoma at today's board meeting.

Town board members postponed signing on to the Lake Ronkonkoma Watershed Intermunicipal Organization last month, after the Towns of Islip and Brookhaven joined, due to a civic leader's concern that the agreement would aid in the widening of County Road 16 near the lake, said Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio.

After finding no evidence that the agreement would assist in road widening, town environmental protection director Russell Barnett suggested the town join.

In a memo last month, Barnett said the group's benefits included "the creation of a mechanism to pursue and qualify for grant funding," and "coordinating activities around the lake and exchanging information."

The town board will also vote on appointing Barnett to the organization. The group aims to address the lake's environmental problems, including sewage discharges, stormwater and fertilizer runoff, officials said.

"I think it's better to have three bordering towns come together with suggestions and proposals that would make Lake Ronkonkoma a better place to visit and to sail," Vecchio said.

Councilman Thomas McCarthy, Edward Wehrheim and Robert Creighton also plan to vote in favor of it.

McCarthy described the lake as an important resource for each of the three towns, while Creighton said protecting the water quality and the environment is "absolutely necessary."

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