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Lake Agawam Plan Has $6 Million Pricetag; Angel Donors Welcomed

Originally Posted: July 11, 2008

Kelly Carroll

The study concludes that a watershed of approximately 1,100 acres generating from 13 areas, not just the village, contributes to the amalgamation of Lake Agawam which contains a considerable runoff from storm-water. Photos by Kelly Carroll

Southampton - After less than a year of study and planning, the Southampton Village Board of Trustees is confident that a $6 million comprehensive plan tapping private and public resources to clean up Lake Agawam will be money well spent.

"There are a lot of places that are in worse shape than us, but we are certainly on the scale," explained Chic Voorhis of Nelson, Pope and Voorhis, who presented the board with the proposed plan at Thursday's meeting. "This really gives us something to work from."

Chic Voorhis, village consultant on the Lake Agawam project, presented 22
recommendations to the board on how to clean up and preserve the lake.

Voorhis, whose company specializes in finding solutions for environmental management, as well as the planning and analysis of land use, first presented the board with a draft of the comprehensive plan on June 24. Presenting the result to his findings and recommendations to the board and concerned residents to rave reviews, Voorhis explained he used the template agreed upon at the completion of the draft phase and changed very little.

Voorhis' findings were extensive, and relied heavily on research, and studies from village members, as well as scientists from SUNY Stony Brook Southampton's Marine and Atmospheric Department. Areas looked at included storm-water control infrastructure, water quality, and drainage. The study also includes an inventory of what is in the lake and an analysis of the existing conditions.

The study concludes that a watershed of approximately 1,100 acres generating from 13 areas, not just the village, contributes to the amalgamation of Lake Agawam which contains a considerable runoff from storm-water. Of the 140 catch basins installed around the lake to mitigate storm water intrusion, 36 are in need of repair, and two feeder spots, Dune Road and the intersection of Cameron Street and South Main Street, were found to be "flooding areas."

As for water quality, Voorhis said that the lake is still productive, in terms of fish population, although he suggested that it would be beneficial to encourage practices that promote native fish species.

Lake Agawam Advisory Committee members Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel,
left, and David Bohnett, were on hand to support the comprehensive plan.

Voorhis also assured the board that there are some positives in the lake in terms of native vegetation. For example, the lake has a large water lily population, which provides shade to the fish species below. However, if not controlled, it could end up hurting the lake more than it helps it. The installation of bubblers throughout the lake, an on-going program spearheaded by lake residents and the board, provide aeration to forestall stagnation, yet these are mostly at the north and south ends and additional attention now needs to be focused toward the middle of the lake.

"The whole gist of this study is to limit nitrogen into the lake," Voorhis said, citing the lake's low levels of dissolved oxygen and high levels of excess nutrients. "Anything in ground water is a source of nitrogen."

On completion of the study, Voorhis put together a list of 22 recommendations that, if adhered to, would clean up Lake Agawam not only in the short-term, but also for years to come. In addition, Voorhis outlined who would be responsible for each recommendation, what the estimated cost of each recommendation would be, and what funding sources are available if the recommendations are implemented.

Some short-term recommendations include controlling the waterfowl population and ensuring appropriate land use density within the village and watershed area. Long-term recommendations, which Voorhis estimates will take five to 10 years, are to examine municipally owned lakefront areas for improvement opportunities and to evaluate the potential for removal of organically enriched bottom sediments from the lake.

Many of Voorhis' recommendations for the Lake Agawam clean-up have already been implemented throughout the village, including the installation of an extra 21 catch basins, the distribution of pamphlets that educate the community on how to reduce their lake pollution, and a pick-up-after-your-pet campaign, which the village started when it installed "Mutt Mitts" on certain streets.

Historic photos of Lake Agawam taken over its picturesque past.

The lake spans from just below the base of Jobs Lane
to Gin Lane, a stretch from the shores of the
Atlantic Ocean.

Looking For A Few Angels
In calculating the numbers set forth in Voorhis' recommendations, the total project could end up costing at least $6 million, without the inclusion of programs that can be implemented via private funds and projects whose price is dependent upon more specifics than are currently available. The cost, however, is something advisory committee members say is worth it.

Advisory Committee Member Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel called for the wealthier citizens of the community to get involved. "In the grand scheme of things, how little would it cost," she asked. "There must be a few angels in Southampton that would want to do all of this for Southampton."

"First we need to define, then come up with a program, and apply for funds based on today's dollar," Village Trustee Nancy McGann suggested. Later in the presentation, McGann also addressed the lack of sewage treatment as a concern. According to Voorhis, Southampton has a historical developmental pattern that created a good deal of development in a small area but did not provide for sewage treatment. Possible solutions could be taping into developer George Benedict's pending sewage treatment center to be installed at the future Ponds at Southampton Village, according to Trustee Paul Robinson, or the possible tying into the Southampton Hospital campus should the hospital ever create that opportunity, according to Mayor Mark Epley.

"Planning and environmental science must be balanced," Voorhis cautioned. "This [plan] really shows us where we can get the best bang for our buck in terms of control."

"This is our Central Park, and look what was done there," commented Lake Agawam Advisory Committee member David Bohnett, referring to the beautification of New York City's largest park. "This continues to energize us as a group."

The village will post the entire plan and its recommendations on it's website by the end of the workday on Monday, inviting public comment on the comprehensive lake plan for a period of two weeks. Voorhis indicated he will prioritize the list of recommendations in the order of which improvements are most urgent. Those who wish to comment on the plan are welcome to do so. After that, the plan will be made official.

"We need a plan that will lead us into the future," Mayor Epley cautioned.

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