East Hampton CPF Will Fund Rain Gardens

Billy Hajak, a member of the Town’s Water Quality Technical Advisory Committee, speaking to the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday. Christine Sampson photo

Ever since East End residents approved in 2016 an extension of the Community Preservation Fund that allows 20 percent of its proceeds to be used for water quality projects, Sag Harbor officials have been lobbying for East Hampton and Southampton towns to consider some of the more than two dozen projects they have proposed for the village.

On Tuesday, the East Hampton Town Board signed off on four of those projects. A series of rain gardens would be installed on Terry Drive and Cadmus Road in Azurest. The second project would consist of two rain gardens to be constructed on either side of Marine Park. Two other projects call for the installation of new drainage and permeable pavement to reduce runoff on Bay Street, with one fronting Marine Park, the other the municipal parking lot to the east in front of the village sewage treatment plant.

John Shaka, the chairman of the village Harbor Committee, said he hoped the projects, while all small in scale, would mark the start of a trend toward better stewardship of village waters.

“The idea is to catch the first flush of stormwater,” he said, “to catch it as high as possible so you can prevent it from flowing straight into surface waters and filter out some of the pollutants.”

Mr. Shaka said either he or John Parker, another member of the Harbor Committee, had been attending meetings of the East Hampton Town Water Quality Technical Advisory Committee for the past six months to lobby for village projects.

“They are supportive of all 10 projects we have proposed,” he said, “but they picked these four first in part because they are highly visible and will be effective.”

Mr. Shaka said the 10 projects on the East Hampton side of the village and an additional 16 projects on the Southampton side of the village had been included in a list of proposals compiled by the village’s environmental consultant, Chick Voorhis, and submitted to the towns before voters approved the CPF referendum. Southampton Town has been focusing its initial attention on targeting highly polluted areas west of the Shinnecock Canal and has yet to consider the Sag Harbor projects.

Even though the East Hampton Town Board approved the projects this week, Mellissa Winslow, an environmental analyst for the town, said the work would probably not be completed until 2020 after designs are drawn up and the sites monitored. Once final designs and costs are calculated, the projects will be subject to final town board approval.

Rain gardens are low areas planted with a variety of perennial plants that collect the first surge of rainwater, and in the process, remove large amounts of pollutants. The Azurest project, which is expected to cost $30,000, would involve the placement of five of the structures upgrade from a pipe that drains road runoff onto the beach below.

Three separate projects are being planned for Bay Street, where flooding is common following heavy rains. Two more rain gardens costing $8,640, would be installed on either side of Marine Park. Installing drainage systems with permeable pavement in the street along the south side of Marine Park would cost an estimated $78,400 and a similar system down the block would cost $52,260.

Mr. Shaka said Azurest community members had approached the Harbor Committee about mitigation measures, and Michael Williams, the neighborhood association’s president, attended Monday’s Harbor Committee meeting and offered to work with the village to find volunteers to help maintain the rain gardens.

The idea also received support from Rich Schumacher, who teaches environmental science at Pierson High School, and Richard Brosnan, the head of the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, which has partnered with East Hampton Village to install rain gardens in that village.

Although Sag Harbor Village has agreed to maintain the rain gardens for at least the first two years, Mr. Shaka said he was hoping community members would volunteer to clean them in the spring, weed them in the early summer and cut back excessive growth at the end of the season.

Dee Yardley, the village’s superintendent of public works, said he had yet to see detailed plans for any of the structures, and while they could be good for the environment, “they could also be a maintenance nightmare.”