“It’s been nearly 20 years in the making,” said Legis. Anthony Piccirillo (R-8th District) about the dredging of Browns River in Sayville that has not occurred in approximately 18 years.
This environmental concern made the waterway un-navigable at times, causing safety issues. The major question that stunted the beginning of the dredging project was the site where the spoils would be placed.
While originally two sites had been optioned and local environmental group, Save the Great South Bay, had also proposed a number of other sites, the Department of Environmental Conservation determined that only the original spoils site, created in the 1960s, could be utilized.
A berm has been constructed by the DEC around the spoilage depositary. A berm is defined as a level space, shelf, or raised barrier (usually made of compacted soil) separating areas in a vertical way, especially partway up a long slope.
Robin Silvestri, president of Save the Great South Bay, said, “It was unfortunate that multiple acres of native forest that had grown back at this spot had to be destroyed to make room for the spoils. Many species have made this they’re home, including native birds and turtles. Hopefully, our public officials will support habitat restoration in the area to at least attempt to offset the destruction.”
In late December 2021, two other sites had been identified, but drew concern from environmental and civic groups once it was determined.
A representative from Save the Great South Bay said at the time, “We feel strongly about it because there are two proposed dredge sites and one of them is an official dredge site; we don’t dispute that—it hasn’t been used since the ‘80s and since then, an entire forest has reestablished itself there, so we’re looking to see if there are alternative sites out there that would prevent the forest from being torn down to out the dredge spoils there.”
After speaking with stakeholders and environmental groups about their concerns, Piccirillo placed a 30-day pause on the project and created a working group to bring stakeholders together and discuss other options.
As the project stands now, the Army Corps of Engineers are on standby to begin the work, as permits are in place and just need authorization from the state government.
“Everything is going according to schedule,” said Piccirillo.
Town of Islip supervisor Angie Carpenter said that spoils could be tested and if found to be environmentally sound, could be used to cover landfills.
Carpenter also brought up the 167 boat slips along the river that would now be in use (“In time for the 2023 boating season,” she added) that had previously been unusable because of silt build-up.
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