The Carmans River, a 10-mile river that runs from Middle...

The Carmans River, a 10-mile river that runs from Middle Island to Bellport Bay, welcomes kayakers from all over Long Island for an hourly or daily paddle. (Sept. 24, 2013) Credit: Brittany Wait

Brookhaven Town officials appear poised to approve a conservation plan for the Carmans River, after three years of failed attempts to protect the fragile watershed from overdevelopment.

The town board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a 200-page blueprint that calls for purchasing various parcels along the 10-mile river and imposing zoning that restricts new construction.

The 5 p.m. meeting at Brookhaven Town Hall is to include a forum at which residents may comment.

Unlike with the previous administration, community opposition to the plan has been muted, and town board members have raised no serious objections.

"I think it's going to have no problem passing on the board. I think everybody will approve," said Councilwoman Connie Kepert, whose district includes most of the watershed. "I think that the plan does what it's supposed to do: It protects the Carmans River."

Previous efforts, including one promulgated last year by then-Supervisor Mark Lesko, fell apart due to concerns from environmentalists and community activists. Those concerns centered on wastewater discharges and the proposed use of development credits to steer builders to other parts of town.

Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, who has served on a town committee developing the various plans, said earlier wastewater control plans had been inadequate. Under the new plan, developments would be required to use the "best available technologies" for removing nitrogen from wastewater.

"I think that's a real positive development from the new plan," he said. "This could serve as a model for other towns and other municipalities throughout Suffolk County."

East Moriches community activist Jim Gleason, a frequent critic of the town's Carmans River plans, said he worries the town's Zoning Board of Appeals could blunt the plan by awarding zoning variances to developers, and he questioned the town's land acquisition strategy. "A plan to protect the watershed and the water below it is a good thing," he said. "[But] it seems to me there are a few improvements that ought to be made."

If the plan is adopted, town officials must amend zoning codes to reflect its goals.

Richard Amper, executive director of the Pine Barrens Society of Long Island, hailed the plan as "a major conservation victory for Long Island."

"There will be more post-enactment work required," Amper said, "but at least the future of the river is going to better, not worse, as it had been up to now."


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