Water Quality Plan for Round Pond Seems to Get Some Resistance

The bulkhead and road end of Middle Line Highway at Round Pond. Peter Boody photo

Aware there has been talk of opposition to a water quality improvement project the Town of Southampton is planning for Round Pond at Middle Line Highway, Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni appeared in person before the Sag Harbor Village Board on Tuesday to ask it to postpone making any decision to approve or oppose the plan.

The opposition, which so far has been behind the scenes, has taken some people by surprise because the project originated in the village. It was developed as part of a package of water quality improvement projects in 2016 by the Harbor Committee and its environmental consultant. They were formally submitted by the Sag Harbor Village Board to the Town of Southampton for Community Preservation Fund revenues to pay for them.

Before granting the village more than a quarter-million dollars in funding for the projects, the town decided to take over one of the projects, slated for Middle Line Highway at the pond, because the bulkhead is owned by the Town Trustees and the town-village boundary bisects Middle Line Highway.

The proposal calls for removing the failing bulkhead at the foot of Middle Line Highway to recreate a natural shoreline; install new drainage infrastructure; create rain gardens to absorb and filter road runoff before it reaches the pond; and shifting the road end eastward 150 feet, away from the pond edge, to allow for a wide natural buffer.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Schiavoni said the town had recently fenced in a preserved pond-front parcel it owns off the end of the road because illegal clearing had taken place on it.

In an interview Tuesday, he said that Mayor Sandra Schroeder had told him this spring that “people don’t like it.”

“The whole thing’s a you-know-what,” the mayor said at the Village Board meeting after disclosing that the village’s public works superintendent had been maintaining the bulkhead even though it was owned by the Town Trustees.

After a brief discussion, during which no  one aired any objections to the plan, the board tabled any action. Just the day before, the village’s Harbor Committee had agreed to tell the board it supported the plan. “We should take a position on this project,” committee member John Parker said during the committee’s meeting on Monday. “This project should be pursued with possible modifications rather than opposed” by the Village Board.

Committee Chair Mary Ann Eddy said the failing bulkhead needed to be addressed. “Someone could get hurt at that bulkhead. The village needs to discuss and really look at it. Let’s not turn down funding when we have a public safety issue.”

The committee asked its consultant, Charles Voorhis, to draft a memo to be submitted to the Village Board before its Tuesday meeting indicating the committee’s support for the project.