Long Island’s Proposition 1 Would Protect Water Quality
November 1, 2016
By Will von Geldern, New York League of Conservation Voters Program Director
On Nov. 8th, voters on the East End of Long Island will vote Yes or No on a proposal to extend the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) until 2050. The CPF, which uses revenue from a 2% real estate transfer tax to protect and restore land and water around the East End, is set to expire in 2030. The proposal would also allocate more CPF funding toward the East End’s growing water quality remediation needs, which requires voter approval. You can pledge to support the CPF’s longevity and power this Election Day.
The CPF’s initial purpose, along with basic conservation, was to preemptively protect water quality by preserving land. The fund has been tremendously successful to date, and East End voters have already extended the CPF; to 2020 in 2002, and 2030 in 2006. In its 17-year lifetime, the CPF has raised $1.1 billion to protect over 10,000 acres of open space and farmland.
This year, if passed, the CPF update will allow five Suffolk County towns to apply up to 20% of the funds toward water quality projects, which have grown increasingly necessary since the inception of the CPF in 1999. The proposed legislation is not a tax increase: it’s an extension of the current program to 2050. Voters can find this specific referendum, called Proposition 1, on the back of their ballots.
Some land uses outside the reach of the CPF are still degrading water quality through overloads of nitrogen and other chemicals, and re-allocating 20% of funding to water quality projects is a strategy to remediate the water directly. This strategy could be more effective than waiting for state or federal agencies to fix the problem, as those programs would likely be slow or applied elsewhere.
The allocation of 20% of the CPF to remediating water quality is a significant improvement. Aging septic systems and polluted runoff from unprotected land have been sending nitrogen into the water supply, which causes huge populations of algae to rapidly grow in small areas, throwing off the ecosystem’s balance. When these algal blooms occur, the algae rapidly suck out the water’s oxygen, asphyxiating fish populations. In 2015, 750,000 pounds of suffocated bunker fish had to be extracted from the Peconic waterways, and these algal blooms are also harmful to humans and land animals and result in numerous beach closures each summer.
This referendum would give Riverhead, Southold, Shelter Island, Southampton, and East Hampton larger budgets to fight the growing water quality issue without raising taxes. These towns could customize their water initiatives with larger budgets that are secured all the way until 2050. Candidates running for public office are going to be on the front page of the ballots on Election Day; Proposition 1 will be on the back. Don’t forget to flip your ballot over and vote Yes.
To stay connected to this issue on the way to Election Day, you can take the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund pledge to support Prop 1.