SHIRLEY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Environmentalists are at odds on Long Island. Some say solving one problem will create another.
The question is, should spray chemicals be used on dunes near the beach to save an endangered bird?
They were hooking their catch off the Great South Bay on Monday, steps from dunes that could soon be sprayed with pesticides. An intense environmental dilemma is underway in order to save an endangered species, the piping plover, that lays its eggs in sand. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon spray chemicals on to dune grass and reeds that cause the fragile eggs to break.
“If they think they have to do this to protect the species, I am going to make sure my son is OK and protected and I’m not going to let him play on the dunes,” parent Anca Schneider told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan on Monday.
The decision to spray the weed killer glyphosate is provoking complaints at Smith Point County Park.
The pesticide spraying is to begin in earnest this fall and repeated next spring, starting with 30 acres of vegetated dune grass.
Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco said he wants the federal government to reconsider.
“The dunes are a natural part of the structure of the barrier island and the protection of the mainland, and it is counter-intuitive, counter-productive to remove those dunes,” Calarco said.
The feds say they are obligated to save the piping plover. Past failed attempts to do so included using machinery to scrape away dune vegetation and even placing a tarp over the plants.
“Without some type of herbicide application, it basically just comes back with a vengeance,” said Robert Smith, a biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“I don’t like that at all, not at all, because my dog chews on this grass. If they spray it’s going to harm my dog. Plus. it goes into our drinking water,” Shirley homeowner John Calicchio said.
The Citizens Campaign for the Environment helped get the plan scaled back. Initially, the Army Corps wanted to spray a whopping 173 acres.
“We need to find a way to do both: protect our beaches, protect the strength of our shores, but also to protect the piping plover and provide habitat. We think this was a reasonable compromise,” said the Citizens Campaign’s Adrienne Esposito.
The plan to spray comes in response to a lawsuit, ironically, from Audobon New York, for the failure to adequately protect piping plovers.
The Army Corps of Engineers is in the midst of a massive dune-strengthening project, and claims the spraying will not cause dune erosion.