August Lands Update: Land, Ho! We’re Saving the Sound by Land and by Sea

Your Weekly Digest of Save the Sound’s Action

credit: Kierran Broatch

Each Wednesday, we bring you an update on one of our program areas. This week: Protected Lands. Read other recent updates on our blog: Healthy Waters, Climate & Resiliency, Ecological Restoration, Legal Actions

Sailing Forward on Plum Island

It’s an exciting time for all those who love Plum Island and have seen it through years of uncertainty! Although Plum Island no longer is on the auction block (thanks to supporters like you), there still is no permanent protection in place for this remarkable island just 100 miles from New York City.

Save the Sound, coordinating the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, has launched a campaign asking President Biden to proclaim Plum Island a National Monument for the purpose of ecological conservation, historical preservation, and the discovery and celebration of our shared cultural heritage. Many of you have sent your letters to the president. If you’re not yet one of them, please contact President Biden today!

At the federal level, all four U.S. senators from New York and Connecticut put their call for Plum preservation in writing to the U.S. Department of the Interior, and many of your federal representatives have also championed Plum Island. But state and local elected officials still need to weigh in. It’s important for the White House to hear from everyone in the region—both residents and elected officials—to understand the importance of this movement. If you haven’t done so already, ask your state legislators to join in the call to preserve Plum Island forever! Finally, it’s time to invite your local elected leaders–your mayor, town supervisor, or first selectperson—to send their own note to the president, using this link to our automated system. All officials are welcome to revise the letter to suit their needs. If they prefer to write a letter on their own, please ask them to send a copy to plumislandSM@savethesound.org. We want to be able to take a copy of every single letter with us when we go to Washington!

Upon proclamation of Plum Island as a National Monument, federal entities could enter into a public–philanthropic partnership, made possible by at least one generous private donor. Management planning would follow, with plenty of public input, to ensure that Plum Island’s irreplaceable riches—including the largest seal haul-out site in New York, over 111 species of conservation concern, several habitats rare for Long Island, and nationally significant artifacts and historic buildings—would be protected in perpetuity. Please, take a moment to be part of this historic action!

credit: Stephen Borghardt

Paddling for Healthy Ecosystems

…in Mattituck Creek

We teamed up in July with Save Mattituck Inlet and some members of Long Island Paddlers (a not-for-profit group) for a kayaktivism rally to oppose a developer’s plan for two gigantic yacht storage buildings on the banks of Mattituck Creek on Long Island’s North Fork. The Strong’s Storage project (officially called Strong’s Yacht Center – Proposed Boat Storage Buildings) calls for the construction of two massive structures with footprints of 50,000 square feet—over an acre—each. The project would require clear-cutting 630 mature trees and removing 134,000 cubic yards of sand from a steep slope above the creek, destroying the last large block of native forest supplying clean groundwater to the inlet. The property adjoins not only Mattituck Creek—a New York State Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat—but also a 27-acre public nature preserve that includes old-field shrubland/grassland and a mature forest, the integrity of which would be threatened by the yacht center project. The Town of Southold Planning Board rejected the developer’s draft environmental impact statement as unfit for public review, citing numerous inadequacies. If the developer submits a revised DEIS, we’ll be there to respond and let you know how to get involved! Read more about Strong’s Storage.

…in the Oswegatchie Hills

The 19th Niantic River Appreciation Kayak Regatta, hosted by our partners at Save the River-Save the Hills, is coming up Saturday, August 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This favorite, nearly-annual event includes a kayak parade up the river following the Goshen Fire Boat from Sandy Point to Town of Waterford’s Grimsey Beach, plus kayak races, demos and rentals of kayaks and SUPs, free clam chowder and hot dogs, and music from The Low-Tiders. All are welcome! The Niantic River is bordered on the west by the beautiful Oswegatchie Hills in East Lyme, CT. We’ve been fighting alongside Save the River-Save the Hills and the rest of our partners in the Save Oswegatchie Hills Coalition to save 236 acres of the Hills from an 840-unit housing development that would threaten the water quality of this tidal estuary of Long Island Sound with stormwater runoff carrying pollutants from acres of impervious surfaces, and endanger the diversity of animal and plant life. Our most recent legal victory in the ongoing battle came in October 2021, when a judge ordered the applicant to provide meaningful environmental information before proceeding further with the application. Our Legal and Lands teams continue to fight for the Hills!

…and on the Sound

For more paddling action, join us for our own annual Paddle for the Sound and raise money to support Save the Sound’s work throughout the Long Island Sound region! Paddle for the Sound is a virtual competition to see who can cover the most distance and raise awareness to protect the environment in and around the Sound, including its spectacular rivers, lakes, forests, and greenspaces. Registration is $100 for adults, $50 for youth, and prizes will be awarded for the longest cumulative distance covered on paddleboard or kayak over the weekend of August 12-14. Participants are also encouraged to set up a personal fundraising page with a goal of $200 or more. Because this year’s event is again virtual, you can launch from anywhere, including local rivers. Find your favorite launch location on our Sound Health Explorer page! All funds raised through Paddle for the Sound advance our mission to fight climate change, save endangered lands, protect the Sound and its rivers, and work with nature to restore ecosystems.

Colebrook Reservoir

Keeping Watch over Drinking Water Lands

Connecticut law protects lands surrounding our drinking water supplies from being developed. But if a water company determines that it no longer needs to maintain a water supply, it can apply for an abandonment permit. If granted, that could leave the surrounding lands vulnerable to private sale and development.

Since 2019, our Legal and Lands teams have been tracking changes in operations of The Metropolitan District water company (MDC) in the West Branch of the Farmington River in northwestern Connecticut, including Colebrook Reservoir, where MDC has the rights to 13.5 billion gallons of water, and Goodwin Reservoir, where it has the rights to 3 billion gallons. These sources, which have historically and consistently been classified by MDC as emergency and future sources of drinking water, are surrounded by significant open space land, including more than 12,000 acres owned by MDC. About half of that acreage is in Connecticut, much of it connected to state forests. Collectively, it comprises one of the few tracts of contiguous open space of that size remaining in the state.

Now MDC has filed a request for a declaratory ruling from the state Department of Public Health to eliminate DPH’s jurisdiction over part of the Colebrook Reservoir supply. If granted, MDC could relinquish rights to 10 billion gallons of drinking water—without an abandonment permit or other DPH oversight. The surrounding land would still be protected because of the remaining water supply, but we’re concerned about significant implications for future protection of the land in this watershed. We plan to file for party status in the proceedings so we can participate and ensure that DPH retains its authority over this important drinking water resource and that the protections for its surrounding lands remain in place.

Thanks for all you do to protect our lands!
David Anderson, Land Campaigns Manager


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