Governor Andrew Cuomo last Friday signed State Senator Ken LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s recent legislation that would extend the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund from 2030 to 2050, if voters in the five East End towns agree to continue the program in referenda expected to be placed on the November 2016 ballot in the five East End towns.
The new legislation would also authorize the five towns to use up to 20 percent of the annual CPF revenues for water quality protection.
In addition to the public referenda, each town will also be required to devise and approve a plan for water quality protection projects and adopt a local law ensuring the continued integrity of the CPF when using the money for water quality programs. Voters must be told exactly how each town would spend the additional CPF funds before the vote.
Under the newly signed state law, eligible water quality improvement projects include wastewater treatment improvement projects, non-point source abatement and control program projects, aquatic habitat restoration projects, pollution prevention projects, and the operation of the Peconic Bay National Estuary Program.
Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle’s offices have estimated that the extension of the CPF program would allow the five towns to generate $1.5 billion between 2031 and 2050, for a total of $2.7 billion between 2016 and 2050.
If those numbers hold out, they calculate the maximum that could be generated for water quality projects from 2016 until 2050 would be $540 million. Towns would still be allowed to use the 20 percent money for land preservation if they chose not to pursue water quality projects.
The Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund was established in 1999, and has protected more than 10,000 acres of land with more than $1 billion dollars generated through a 2 percent real estate transfer tax.
The program was initially based on the assumption that if the land was protected, the water would remain clean, but, in spite of the preservation, the legacy of existing development and land uses continues to increase nitrogen loading in the East End’s waters.”
“Throughout my career, I have made it a priority to preserve and protect our fragile environment.said Mr. LaValle in a press release issued Tuesday. “Prior to this new law, the CPF was a mechanism that enabled us to preserve important lands, and now, I am hopeful it will have the same success protecting our water.”
“This new law will provide for another twenty years of priority land acquisitions in addition to presenting a local mechanism to address the East End’s water quality crisis and further protect the resources with which our economy is so heavily reliant on,” said Mr. Thiele.