BY TIM GANNON
On more than one occasion, Shelter Island’s North Ferry Company has had to briefly shut down operations to deal with docking difficulties caused by rising tides. Applications in Southold Town for coastal erosion protection devices are on the rise. And flooding and puddling have become more prevalent in some neighborhoods in the last five to 10 years.
These were among the impacts of climate change discussed at a forum May 22 at Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue. “The Effects of Climate Change on the North Fork” was the fourth in a series of 10 panel discussions on newsworthy topics affecting Southold and Riverhead towns, hosted by Times Review Media Group.
“I’ve been immersed in the subject of global warming for at least 10 years,” said panelist Mark Haubner, vice president of the North Fork Environmental Council. “Climate change presents us with some of the most immediate and observable impacts that we can see for ourselves on the North Fork.
“We have collectively changed the composition of the atmosphere, and our oceans are swelling due to the amount of carbon we are producing,” he said.
Mr. Haubner was joined on the panel by Southold Town Trustee John Bredemeyer, North Ferry general manager Bridgford Hunt, Marie Beninati of Southold VOICE, Kevin McAllister of Defending H2O and Joyce Novak of the Peconic Estuary Program. County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) contributed to the discussion as an audience member.
“Climate change is critical,” said Ms. Beninati, a realtor and chair of Southold VOICE, a not-for-profit organization that addresses waterfront issues from the perspective of property owners.
Mr. Bredemeyer said the agenda for the town Trustees’ May meeting was 18 pages.
“There were 13 applications that dealt specifically with the impact from increasing sea level rise, and the more frequent storms we see,” he said.”
Damage along the waterfront is something Trustees are dealing with on a near daily basis. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)
He added that a third of the work before the Trustees relates to coastal erosion and “coastal erosion protection in dealing with writing wetland permits in this changing climate.”
“Of our 13 inspections this month,” Mr. Bredemeyer said, “we ended up having three bulkhead inspections, several groin inspections, several retaining wall inspections and we had several applications where rising waters will impact the development and ultimately the plans for home sanitary systems.”
Mr. Haubner said sea level change is only one of the effects of climate change. “A tornado in Ronkonkoma this year woke my daughter up,” he noted.
“We live on a planet that supports us, not the other way around,” he said. “If our air and our waters and our lands are healthy, so are we.”
Mr. Krupski, a farmer, said he’s heard anecdotally from other farmers that spring seasons are now colder and wetter than in the past, and that the fall extends further.
“Now, you don’t get a hard freeze until Christmas or the first of the year,” he said.