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New York State Prohibition on Marine Discharges of Vessel Sewage; Receipt of Petition and Tentative Determination

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Notice is hereby given that a petition was received from the State of New York on July 5, 2001 requesting a determination by the Regional Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pursuant to section 312(f) of Public Law 92-500, as amended by Public Law 95-217 and Public Law 100-4 (the Clean Water Act), that adequate facilities for the safe and sanitary removal and treatment of sewage from all vessels are reasonably Start Printed Page 10209available for the waters of the Peconic Estuary, County of Suffolk, State of New York. The Towns of East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton, and Southold, and the Villages of Dering Harbor, Greenport, North Haven, and Sag Harbor are seeking to establish a New York State Designated No-Discharge Zone for the open waters, harbors and creeks on the Peconic Estuary, Suffolk County, New York west of a line from Orient Point (41.16133, -72.23065) to Montauk Point (41.07312, -71.8570).

Once the EPA has determined that the waterbody contains an adequate number of pumpouts, it is automatically a State designated No-Discharge Zone, pursuant to Section 33.e.1. of the New York State Navigation Law. Within the No-Discharge Zone, discharges from marine toilets are prohibited under Section 33.e.2 of the State Navigation Law, and marine sanitation devices on board vessels operated in a No-Discharge Zone must be secured to prevent discharges. This statute may be enforced by any police officer or peace officer acting pursuant to their special duties.

A New York State Designated No-Discharge Zone has already been established in the Town of East Hampton (1998) for the enclosed harbors and creeks on the Peconic Estuary from the Sag Harbor Village line to Montauk Point, Town of East Hampton, Suffolk County, New York. The existing NDA includes Northwest Creek, Accabonac Harbor, Three Mile Harbor, Napeague Harbor, Hog Creek and Lake Montauk.

The open waters, harbors and creeks of the Peconic Estuary support significant shellfisheries, fish spawning, nursery and feeding areas, primary contact recreation such as swimming, and are or have within them State designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats. Vessel counts indicate that there are approximately 7,000 to 11,300 boats in the area on an average summer weekend.

These areas provide important natural and recreational resources that contribute significantly to the local, regional and state economy and the protection and enhancement of these waters is crucial to maintaining the natural resource values and economic viability of traditional maritime commercial and recreational activities.

For many years, most of the Peconic Estuary was open for shellfishing. However, beginning in the mid-1980's, the creeks and embayments experienced partial seasonal closures due to coliform bacteria levels. At present, the major creeks and embayments experience closure on a year round or a seasonal basis due to high levels of coliform bacteria in the water. Although vessel waste may be a relatively small contributor to marine pollution in general in the Peconic Estuary, pollution from boats has been identified in the New York State Priority Waterbodies List as one of several key pollution sources that has led to shellfish being classified as an impaired use in water quality classifications within the Peconic Estuary.

According to the State's petition, the maximum daily vessel population for the waters of the Peconic Estuary is 11,247 vessels which are docked or moored. An inventory was developed including the number of recreational, commercial and estimated transient vessels that occupy the estuary. The following table summarizes the location of pumpout facilities and vessel populations:

Orient Harbor2810
Greenport Harbor10262
Southold Bay13194
Hog Neck Bay2510
Cutchogue Harbor Complex6992
Flanders Bay Complex5724
Red Creek Pond1870
Cold Springs Pond3413
Bullhead Bay/Sebonac Complex761
North Sea Harbor2530
Noyack Sea Harbor3000
Sag Harbor Complex18672
Three Mile Harbor12628
Accabonac Harbor560
Napeague Harbor200
Lake Montauk12746
Dering Harbor3811
Coecles Harbor2871
West Neck Harbor3460

The ratio of boats to pumpout facilities has been based on the total number of vessels which could be expected. With thirty shore-side pumpout facilities and six pumpout vessel available to boaters, the ratio of docked or moored boats (including transients) is approximately 311 vessels per pumpout. Standard guidelines refer to acceptable ratios failing in the range of 300 to 600 vessels per pumpout.

There are commercial vessel operators active in and around the Peconic Estuary. These include the Cross Sound Ferry, the Plum Island Ferry, the Shelter Island Ferry and the commercial fishing fleets which operate out of Greenport and East Hampton. Cross Sound Ferry has a fleet of seven vessels. Six of these accommodate autos, trucks, buses and passengers. Cross Sound Ferry also offers high speed ferry service on its passenger only vessel, Sea Jet I. The ferries run hourly from each location, generally between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., although the schedule varies with the season and at holidays. All of the Cross Sound Ferry fleet have holding tanks. These are pumped out at its facility in New London. Waste is emptied into the sewer system for treatment at the New London Sewage Treatment Plant. The Plum Island Ferry operates three vessels between Orient Point and the USDA facility on Plum Island. Vessel waste from the ferries is pumped out and treated at the sewage treatment facility at Plum Island.

Two vehicle ferries run between Shelter Island and the mainland. The North Ferry Co., Inc. provides ferry service between the Village of Greenport and the Town of Shelter Island. The North Ferry operates four 100-ton, 90-foot-long ferries, each capable of carrying cars, trucks, bicycles, and passengers. The ferry operates between 5:40 a.m. and 11:45 p.m., running every 15 minutes between 7:15 a.m. and 10:15 p.m., with additional trips on holiday weekends. No restroom facilities are on board.

South Ferry Inc. of Shelter Island provides ferry service between the Town of Shelter Island and the Village of North Haven. The South Ferry operates 3 ferries, each capable of carrying cars, trucks, bicycles, and passengers. The ferry operates between 6 a.m. and 11:45 p.m., running every 10-12 minutes, with additional trips on holiday weekends. No restroom facilities are on board.

Greenport is home to a commercial fishing fleet. Although subject to turnover and change, the fleet has an estimated 16 vessels. The Village of Greenport Harbor Management Plan (December 1998) identified 3 bay draggers operating out of Stirling Basin and 11 trawlers and 2 scallopers operating from facilities in Greenport Harbor, including Coopers, Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding and the Village of Greenport's commercial fishing dock. The Greenport Seafood Dock and Market and the Greenport Fish factory provide facilities for the unloading and distribution of fish and are used by both local and offshore fleets. The Village's commercial fishing dock, known as the railroad dock, is a layover facility for commercial craft and is not a full service facility. Discussions with the commercial fishing fleet indicate that they discharge holding tanks outside the three mile limit.

Commercial fishing facilities in East Hampton are concentrated in Three Start Printed Page 10210Mile Harbor and Lake Montauk. Data from the Town of East Hampton Draft LWRP (Feb 1999) indicate that the Town's Commercial Dock at the end of Gann Road on Three Mile Harbor serves 5-6 bay trawlers, 3-5 lobster boats and three or more trap fishermen. Lake Montauk is an important commercial fishing center and has an extensive and varied fleet. Although subject to turnover and change, the fleet has at times comprised as many as 44 ground fish trawlers, 12 inshore and 7 offshore lobster boats, and 53 long-liners, including as many as 30 transient boats from other areas of the East Coast. (A. T. Kearney, Development of a Commercial Fisheries Industry Strategy for the State of New York, 1989). Commercial dock space is available at two municipal and four private docks on Star Island and on West Lake Drive, two facilities on East Lake Drive and two facilities on the west side of the Inlet. Discussions with the commercial fishing fleet indicate that they discharge holding tanks outside the three mile limit.

There is one recreational party fishing boat that operates out of Greenport, the Peconic Star II. It docks at the Mitchell site and has a capacity for up to 150 persons. This vessel has two 60 gallon holding tanks and these are pumped out by a septic truck. The Peconic Queen operates out of the Peconic River in Riverhead and tours the estuary. This vessel has a holding tank and pumps out at the Town of Riverhead pumpout in downtown Riverhead. Montauk is also home to charter boats for offshore sport fishing and the Viking passenger ferry fleet. Interviews indicate that these vessels discharge holding tanks outside the three mile limit.

The EPA hereby makes a tentative affirmative determination that adequate facilities for the safe and sanitary removal and treatment of sewage from all vessels are reasonably available for the Peconic Estuary in the County of Suffolk, New York. A final determination on this matter will be made following the 30-day period for public comment and will result in a New York State prohibition of any sewage discharges from vessels in the Peconic Estuary.

Comments and views regarding this petition and EPA's tentative determination may be filed on or before April 5, 2002. Comments or requests for information or copies of the applicant's petition should be addressed to Walter E. Andrews, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region II, Water Programs Branch, 290 Broadway, 24th Floor, New York, New York, 10007-1866. Telephone: (212) 637-3880.

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Dated: February 20, 2002.

Jane M. Kenny,

Regional Administrator, Region II.

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[FR Doc. 02-5313 Filed 3-5-02; 8:45 am]