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Town of East Hampton v. Suffolk County Water Authority

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Commissioner's Determination of Lead Agency
under Article 8 of the
Environmental Conservation Law

PROJECT: Installation of water mains to provide service to the "Napeague Strip" Town of East Hampton, Suffolk County

This decision to designate the Town of East Hampton as lead agency is made pursuant to 6NYCRR 617.6(e). My determination is based, in part, on the fact that due to the primarily local nature of the impacts that the Town of East Hampton more appropriately meets the criteria enumerated at 6NYCRR 617.6(d)(1).

The proposed project is the installation of 20,506 feet of sixteen inch water main and 465 feet of eight inch water main to furnish potable water to a section of the Town of East Hampton known as the "Napeague Strip". This area of the Town has been experiencing problems with both water quality and quantity from its existing on-site wells.

Installation was commenced on December 3, 1984 by Suffolk County Water Authority (hereinafter referred to as "SCWA") based upon its determination that the proposed action qualified as a Type II action pursuant to its own regulations for implementation of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR). On December 10, 1984, the Group for the South Fork, Inc. filed an order to show cause with the Supreme Court of the State of New York seeking to enjoin the SCWA from further installation, and requiring it to fully comply with SEQR. The Town of East Hampton intervened in the action. In a decision dated March 1, 1985, Justice Snellenburg of the Supreme Court County of Suffolk granted the injunction preventing further work and voided the SEQR compliance for the action.

On April 17, 1985, a meeting of the involved agencies was conducted at the Region 1 office of the Department of Environmental Conservation to determine lead agency. At this time, the Town of East Hampton disagreed with the designation of the SCWA as lead agency. In a letter dated April 25, 1985, the SCWA petitioned that the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation resolve the dispute.

According to 6NYCRR 617.6(d)(1) in resolving lead agency disputes, I must consider the location of the anticipated impacts; the breadth of the applicable jurisdiction; and the capability for providing a thorough environmental assessment.

SEQR directs agencies to consider the whole action when conducting the environmental review for a proposed activity (6NYCRR 617.2(b)). In this case, the action includes the installation of water mains by the SCWA which requires construction related approvals by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Town of East Hampton, and the subsequent land use decision making by the Town. The action also includes long-term impacts which are likely to occur as a result of the current proposal. Onondaga Landfill Systems, Inc. v Flacke, 81 A.D. 2d 1022 (4th Dept., 1981).

It is clear that the location of the anticipated impacts will be primarily in the Town of East Hampton. This includes the direct physical impacts from project construction, the pressure of induced growth in an area which may be unsuitable for intense development, fire protection concerns, and the potential for salt water migration into the aquifer. The availability of an adequate supply of potable water will encourage future development and potentially result in a major change in local zoning and land use. My assessment of the impacts is based on the status quo prior to the commencement of work since the Supreme Court decision vacated SEQR compliance for the action rendering the work taken in reliance thereon a nullity.

In terms of the criteria addressing the breadth of government powers to investigate the impacts of the proposed action, the SCWA and the Town of East Hampton are relatively equal. The SCWA, as project sponsor, has the jurisdiction to assess the impacts from project design and construction. The Town of East Hampton, through its permit for a road opening and the jurisdiction associated with future land use decision making, has equal if not greater breadth of review power.

The third criteria directs me to assess the capability of an agency for providing a thorough environmental review. Since the primary impacts are related to growth inducement which will affect local land use, the Town of East Hampton, due to its staff expertise in zoning and land use planning, has the greater ability for providing a thorough review.

Based upon a careful consideration of the facts presented, I find that due to the location of the impacts being primarily local and the available staff expertise for assessing impacts to local land use, the Town of East Hampton is the agency best suited to be lead agency.

Henry G. Williams Commissioner
Dated: July 25, 1985
Albany, New York

Distribution of Copies:

  • H. Berger, Regional Director, Region 1
    J. Hope, Supervisor, Town of East Hampton
    R. Stein, Attorney, Town of East Hampton
    L. Van Nostrand, Counsel, Suffolk County Water Authority
    D. Neufeld, Attorney, Group for the South Fork, Inc.
    J. Carlino, Attorney, Napeague Beach Corporation

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • L. Marsh
    J. Corr
    L. Concra
    M. Gerstman
    J. Jensen
    R. Green

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