Thursday, March 29, 2007

Shell Drops Proposal for an Offshore LNG Terminal

Shell has dropped plans to build an offshore liquefied natural gas terminal. Unfortunately for us, it’s not Broadwater but Gulf Landing, which was to be built in the Gulf of Mexico, off Louisiana:

The cancellation is part of ongoing shakeout in the LNG import industry, which spawned more than three-dozen proposals for sites around the United States after prices rose and concerns grew about an impending domestic U.S. gas shortage.

Now that prices and demand have flattened, a number of other projects have been delayed or canceled.

But others are going forward. Earlier this year, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) licensed two new terminals off Boston and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved two more onshore on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

I’ve been doing a fair number of talks and speeches lately, and people always ask me how we can stop Broadwater. One possibility for slowing the process down, if not stopping it, is to demand that the projects’s environmental impact statement be done over, as I argued here.

It’s obvious from all the written testimony submitted by various government agencies that the DEIS was inadequate, to say the least. So the Federal Energy Regulatory Administration needs to issue a supplement and then hold a new public review period. If we’re lucky, the “ongoing shakeout” will shake out the Shell-TransCanada proposal.

The other obvious course is to let New York State officials know what you think.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the state Department of State must determine that the LNG terminal is consistent with state policies for the use of the coastal zone. It’s also worth remembering that the Department of State has already hinted that the proposal is lacking in the consistency department. Read this, for example.

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There are Plenty of Fish, Not Enough Fish, and Too Many Fish

Fish abundance is up, fish abundance is down. Conditions are improving in Long Island Sound, conditions are getting worse. Here’s evidence perhaps that when it comes to figuring out what’s going on in the natural world, we don’t really know what we’re talking about.

There are so many fish in the Sound that the number of seals that spend the winter here is really high (although when a reporter went out yesterday to cover a seal census, the seal counters didn't found no seals, and yet both the Greenwich and Stamford papers published his account, which tells you something about the economics of newspapers these days, namely that they are so short-staffed that when a reporter's story doesn't pan out, he has to write something anyway because the paper can't afford to send someone out on a story and then have him not write anything; but I digress). Here's what a fellow from the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk opined about fish and seals:

"The seals follow the fish, so if the fish population wasn't healthy, there wouldn't be seals," he said.

Yet there are so few blueback herring and alewives – both of which stage spring spawning runs up rivers from the Sound – that the Connecticut DEP has extended a ban on catching them. Once they were so abundant, as the colonists reported, that you could walk across a stream on their backs and not get your feet wet.

One of the reasons there are so few of these fish now, biologists suspect, is that there are so many fish – namely, striped bass, which eat the smaller herring. The reason there are so many striped bass is that once upon a time – say, 25 years ago – there were so few that officials made it illegal to catch them.

I think it was Barry Commoner who said that in the natural world, everything is connected to everything else.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Alice Ball House ...

... Philip Johnson, architect. You can see it on Oenoeke Ridge Road, in New Canaan. [Read 'Modern,' our new Modern House blog, here.]

Philip Johnson's Alice Ball House

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Scraping Bottom for Shellfish Off Greenwich and Stamford

Is there a shellfishing revival in Long Island Sound, or are fishermen simply looking for every chance to scrape together a living? A couple of weeks ago, a woman from Darien told me that Norwalk boats were dredging up mussels near her house. Now a fellow who owns a fish market in Cos Cob wants to lease 183 acres of land under the Sound, off Greenwich and Stamford, for harvesting oysters and clams.

The feeling among the state officials who issue the leases is that most of the good shellfishing spots are well-known and already taken, which they say explains why they get only about 10 applications for new leases a year. The Cos Cob fisherman, Jardar Nygaard, says he knows that it's a risk, but it's worth it.

"I just think that cultivation of shellfish is a good business to be in," Nygaard said. "For one thing, it's sustainable, and basically eco-friendly."

Here's an interesting Greenwich Time story about his plans.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Argument for Doubling the Clean Water Fund

I wrote in my book that 18 million gallons of raw sewage flows into Long Island Sound and its tributaries each day. That’s 6.5 billion gallons a year. In yesterday’s Courant, Curt Johnson, senior attorney and program director with Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Faith Gavin Kuhn, director of public information for the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, wrote that Connecticut alone accounts for two billion gallons of raw sewage a year.

How close are those numbers are to reality? Who knows. Because most of the raw sewage is carried into waterways by rainwater, the total depends on the amount of rain. And sewer systems are continually being upgraded (and presumably old systems are continuing to fail).

But no one disputes that the raw sewage total is high and unacceptable, and Johnson and Kuhn use the figure to make the case for doubling Governor Rell’s proposal to put $70 million in the Connecticut Clean Water Fund.

Getting back to basics and meeting our clean water goals will require an investment of about $150 million in general obligation bonds during the next fiscal year. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the present level of funding will allow only one in seven projects that are ready to go this year to be funded. This will continue unless adequate funds are provided for the priority wastewater treatment projects in 73 municipalities.

Easing hypoxia in Long Island Sound is one reason to double the proposal. Stopping the flow of raw sewage that reaches the Sound and Connecticut’s rivers is another:

This year, sewage system operators expect a total of nearly 2 billion gallons of raw sewage to overflow into the Connecticut River and coastal harbors over about 50 rainy days.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Woodcock Don't Seem To Be Calling Just Yet.

I don't think woodcock are calling regularly around here yet. The fen is still frozen, and peepers and wood frogs are silent. That's the most likely place to hear woodcock, although I've also heard them making their funny buzzy, beepy call on a hill in the hamlet behind my daughter's friend's house. But they're active in other places. My wife heard this evocative piece on All Things Considered the other night. It's worth a listen.

I've added a few blogs to my list on the lower right, first and foremost Sam Wells's Poof n Whiffs, which is about what I like to think of as Wellsworld, South Padre Island, Texas. Sphere readers know Sam well. His blog is as lively and as wide-ranging as his comments here and I should have linked to it earlier.

There's also Waterwire, a sort of blog/sort of news site that Emily Gertz (of the apparently defunct OneAtlantic blog) writes and edits for the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance; the Blue Marble, which is Mother Jones's enviro blog; Ecopolitics Daily, the New York League of Conservation Voters blog, written partly by Josh Klainberg, who took it in stride when I lit into his organization in an email a few months ago after it endorsed the appalling Sue Kelly for re-election to Congress in my district (I had the satisfaction of seeing Kelly lose to John Hall but I didn't rub it in to Josh); and Connecticut Smart Growth, which is written by a fellow named Tom Sevigny, who spelled my name wrong but otherwise wrote a good post about my thoughts on the Face of Connecticut.

Read them.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Philip Johnson's Alice Ball House: Renovated and on the Market for $3 Million

[Read 'Modern,' our new Modern House blog, here.]

Of the four houses Philip Johnson designed in New Canaan, I’ve been in two, both during the New Canaan Historical Society’s Modern House Day in 2004 – the Boissonas House, which isn’t visible from the road, and the Alice Ball House, which is. It’s small – a cottage really – and a sort of off-white, muted yellowish color. You can find it on Oenoeke Ridge Road, which has become almost a monoculture of gargantuan houses that, like invasive species, have replaced older and more modest (though still large) houses. The Alice Ball House is opposite Hemlock Hill Road and a couple of houses down from Edward Durrell Stone’s Celanese House, which is being renovated.

I had been told (and I wrote on this blog a couple of times; you can find my Modern house posts on the lower right) that the Alice Ball House was owned by an architect who was converting it into a pool house that would be part of a larger property (with a larger house behind it) and that she was planning to build a wall for privacy between the road and the house Johnson designed. [Noon update: These minutes from the New Canaan zoning board indicate that as recently as a year ago the idea was still to turn it into a pool house.]

If that was ever the plan, it has changed. The owner-architect, Cristina Ross, has renovated and updated the house and has put it on the market. If you have $3 million and want a Modern trophy, it can be yours.

Christina sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that it was for sale and directing me to Pruddy Parris, the agent who is selling it (the listing, here, includes some good pictures). Here’s what Pruddy Parris told me:

The Alice Ball House by Philip Johnson is one of his favorites. He built his Glass House a couple of years prior and brought ideas from it to the Alice Ball House. This is his "little jewel.” … There are stone terraces, stone walls, a walled courtyard with its 'secret garden' on 2+ acres.

It has been completely restored leaving the original intact, and completely renovated where owners added on. There are new roofs, new electric wiring, new plumbing, new heating-humidifying system, new master bath, new guestroom and bath, new landscaping and driveway, interior all painted, newly finished lower level, and the exterior will be painted when weather improves.

New Canaan, of course, has become as well known as a place that tolerates the destruction of Modern houses as it is as a center of Modern houses. I don’t think any Johnson houses have been destroyed in New Canaan but houses by Breuer, Noyes, Johansen and others have fallen to make way for neo-colonial McMansions. But maybe times are changing. Cristina Ross wrote to me:

I am very proud to have saved and restored this house. We are looking for one great person who will treasure it.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Reading Manuscripts for a University Press

One of the hoops an editor at a university press has to jump through is to find independent readers to evaluate prospective books. A couple of times Yale University Press has sent me manuscripts and asked me to tell them what I thought. They don't pay much (in the low three figures, depending on the length of the book) but if the fee seems meager you can instead choose books published by Yale University Press worth three times the amount of cash they’ve offered – in other words, they offer $150 in cash or $450 worth of books. This is a good deal and I’ve used it to buy a stack of big, expensive books that I’d otherwise be very unlikely to buy.

Two summers ago I got an e-mail from an editor at Rutgers University Press asking me to read a manuscript called “On the Outwash Plain,” a natural history of the New York City area. She knew of my book and thought I’d be a good choice to evaluate this new book she was considering publishing. She offered a similar deal as Yale – money or Rutgers books – except that it was less money and Rutgers books aren't as interesting as Yale's.

I said yes anyway and read the manuscript. What did I think of it? Hated it. I felt bad about hating it, but I hated it nonetheless. I thought it was poorly organized, amateurishly written, repetitive, and devoid of life and stories, and I told her it read like a term paper or a dull rehash of newspaper articles.

I sent it off with an apology. The editor seemed taken aback by my harshness but she told me not to don't worry about it because I did exactly what she wanted, and she certainly did not want to publish anything that wasn’t good. I thanked her and took the cash.

Coincidentally, the winter before last I got an e-mail from the daughter of an old friend who I had lost contact with. My friend’s birthday was coming up and his daughter thought it would be nice if she could surprise him with a signed copy of This Fine Piece of Water, and she’d like to buy a copy for herself too. I was happy to have an excuse to get back in touch with her father. Because his birthday was soon, I took two copies from my shelf, signed them, and sent them off, with the understanding that she’d buy two copies from a bookstore somewhere and send them to me. Unfortunately she didn’t do that. I waited and waited and never heard from her, and so wrote it off as a birthday present to her father from me, which was fine.

Then shortly before Thanksgiving 2006 my old friend (that is, her father) told me that he and his wife were going to be in my neighborhood, and they invited my wife, Gina, and me to dinner. It was a terrific reunion with lots of laughs and good stories. During dinner he asked if his daughter had ever reimbursed me for the books. I told him what had happened, he was embarrassed, and a few days later his daughter e-mailed to say the books had been ordered from Barnes & Noble and were on their way. And, she said, as a thank you she was sending us a book she was sure I’d be interested in. She happens to work at the Rutgers University library and the book was from Rutgers University Press.

You guessed it: It was “On the Outwash Plain,” re-titled but otherwise virtually identical to the manuscript I had read.

I thanked her but said that she really should not have gone to the trouble. I probably should have said the same to the editor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Broadwater Activists: Advice Needed on Big Energy Project in South Texas

Our friend Sam Wells writes from South Texas:

If Broadwater is a big issue for the citizens around Long Island Sound, now the local folks in lower Texas are fighting a large Big Oil project involving 234 square miles of submerged lands and wetland. An organization to “Save Laguna Madre” is now being formed. The reason I'm telling you Long Island Sound people this is to ask for your advice.

Here’s the background. Earlier this January the state and federal regulators approved permits for a seismic survey of the Lower Laguna Madre in Cameron County, Texas. There was no notice but one day the airboats showed up and started planting over 8,000 charges in the water. Five and a half pound charges were set 80 feet into the ground and set off for the purposes of finding natural gas, oil, and condensate. Then the contractor started to literally blow up the bay.

The oil companies already know there is a lot of natural gas down here; Texaco operated some shallow-water stripper wells until the 1980’s. Thus impacts are not only the 3-D seismic testing but the high probability of having exploratory and production oil rigs in what is considered to be a unique, pristine bay. The Laguna Madre is one of only a half dozen hyper-saline water bodies in the world. In theory nothing should grow in it, but due to nitrogen-fixing blue-green algae and sea grasses, it is a major spawning and nursery area from everything from shrimp larvae to dolphins. Of course, we know what the oil company’s environmental consultant would say – the oil and gas operations have absolutely no impact on the environment.

Thanks for your consideration and comments.

Mussels, Lobster, Shad

I didn’t know that mussels were available commercially from Long Island Sound (I didn’t know that they weren’t, either; I guess I never thought about it) until last week when a woman who came to hear my talk to the Darien Garden Club told me that the Norm Bloom & Son shellfish company has been taking mussels from the flats near her house.

Over in Bridgeport, two fishermen and a partner are opening a new business with plenty of room to keep live lobsters and clams, some of which, at least, are from the Sound. Good for them. It seems at first glance to be the kind of sustainable business we need more of.

We had shad for dinner last night and the sign in the market claimed that they were from Maine. Spawning runs start in the south and move north as the waters get warmer, and since I’m fairly sure the run hasn’t started in the Hudson or the Connecticut rivers yet, the shad we ate must have been ocean-caught, which is fairly controversial because if you catch shad in the ocean they don’t have a chance to swim upstream to spawn. The place we shop still sells Chilean sea bass (a/k/a Patagonian toothfish) too but there’s only so much you can complain about before they start to think you’re a bit nutty.


Let's Get Rid of Some Highways and Avoid Building Super 7

I hardly ever have to drive Route 7 between Norwalk and Danbury so maybe I’m not in a position to talk, but I’m glad the so-called Super 7 project didn’t make it out of committee in Hartford yesterday. Connecticut needs fewer super highways, not more. In fact maybe someone should propose taking a few down. I-91 and Route 9 along the Connecticut River are abominations, and the highways that criss-cross near Waterbury are scars on the Naugatuck Valley.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Broadwater's Chief Shill Talks About Why We Don't Like Big Energy Companies

John D. Hofmeister, the president of Shell who has added corporate shill to his list of duties, is still trying to convince us that we need his company’s liquefied natural gas platform – that is, Broadwater – in the middle of Long Island Sound. He acknowledges that the pubic does not like Big Energy, and the New Haven Register today somehow lets him explain away the public’s feelings by blaming them on Enron.

I think it has much more to do with dubious claims about saving consumers money; an insistence that they, the benevolent corporations, know what’s best for us and our region; and the fact that while Shell (and TransCanada) is trying to shove Broadwater down our throats, they’re making record profits. The Register didn’t mention that latter fact in today’s story, but here it is: in 2006 Shell’s profits were $25.36 billion.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Broadwater Symposium: Science, Politics and Journalism, on April 4 at Avery Point

If you’re confused by the Broadwater issue, or perplexed about why you don’t get a better sense of what’s going on from reading the news, join the club. It’s a tough issue to explain and a tough one to follow, particularly if you decided you were going to wait to learn some of the facts before you made up your mind about it.

Greg Stone, the deputy editorial page editor at the New London Day, considered news coverage of Broadwater to be problematic as well, and so he’s organized a public discussion of the issue, called “Science, Politics and Journalism: Unraveling the Broadwater Controversy,” and billed as a symposium on science and journalism sponsored by the University of Connecticut and The Day.

It will be held on Wednesday, April 4, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Branford House on UConn’s Avery Point campus, in Groton. It’s free, and if you live in the eastern half of Connecticut and follow the Broadwater issue, you should plan on attending.

Greg has recruited UConn professor Helen Rozwadowski, who teaches history and is a coordinator of the Maritime Studies program at UConn, to be the moderator. Two UConn professors – Frank Bohlen and Peter Auster – will be on the panel. Auster, you may remember, is one of four scientists who testified in Hartford late last year about what a poor job FERC did on Broadwater’s draft environmental impact statement. Frank Bohlen has been studying Long Island Sound for considerably longer than I’ve been writing about it, which at this point is about 24 years.

When he was first starting to plan the symposium, Greg Stone asked me to suggest some reporters who might be willing to participate. I told him that his own paper had the best environmental reporter in the Sound region, Judy Benson. Turns out I undersold her. About two weeks after Greg and I talked, the New England Press Association named Judy the best journalist – not merely environmental reporter – in New England. She’s going to participate too.

I’m the fourth person on the panel.

Although the event of course is free, they’d like you to let them know that you’ll attend, by March 30. The person to contact is Lisa Poole, whose email is and whose phone number is 860 405-9262.

Plan to attend. It won’t be a debate about the merits of Broadwater but it should be an interesting discussion about how the press covers issues that require an understanding and explanation of the nuances of science – but not only that. As Greg told us: “Be clear this is a problem not only of science, but democracy.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The President of Shell Can't Understand Why Energy Projects Have Gotten A Bad Reputation. Just A Thought: Maybe Broadwater Has Something to Do With It

I agree with John D. Hofmeister, the president of Shell Oil, who was in Hartford yesterday to discuss energy policy with Connecticut officials: We need new infrastructure and new supplies of energy.

I also agree that new energy projects have gotten a bad name.

Where I disagree with him is on the question of why they’ve gotten a bad name. My opinion is that they’ve gotten a bad name because companies like Shell try to shove proposals like Broadwater down our throats.

Think of it this way, John D. Hofmeister: what you and your partners at TransCanada have done is to say, ‘Let’s build a huge industrial facility that will transform liquefied natural gas into gaseous natural gas. But where should we put it? I know, let’s put it on someone else’s property! Let’s put it on property owned by the people of the state of New York, right next to property owned by the people of Connecticut – property that is held in public trust for those people by the officials of those two states! What a great idea.’

With Broadwater as an example, it’s probably easy for John D. Hofmeister to understand why energy projects have gotten a bad rep among people in New York and Connecticut.

There’s one other person I agree with on this: Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. When John D. Hofmeister took his big energy dog-and-pony show to Hartford yesterday, he met with Blumenthal.

Blumenthal said he told Hofmeister that he is impressed with several projects by Shell such as conservation and efforts against global warming.

"We welcome a number of those initiatives, but you should abandon Broadwater," he said he told Hofmeister.

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Suffolk County Wants FERC to Reject Broadwater's Latest Filing or Reopen the Public Review of its LNG Proposals

Lawyers representing Suffolk County say that because the deadline for public comment has passed, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has two choices in dealing with the extensive additional information Broadwater submitted recently on the environmental impacts of the liquefied natural gas terminal it wants to build in Long Island Sound:

1. It can ignore the information, or

2. It can reopen the public comment period.

Newsday reports:

In the letter sent Tuesday, lawyers Biblow and John M. Armentano say, "Having chosen to withhold information it contends is supportive of its position until after the issuance of FERC's draft environmental impact statement, after the close of the public hearing, after the time expired to submit written comments to the [draft impact statement] and after the intervenors and other opponents submitted their comments ... Broadwater must not be allowed to supplement the record in this fashion."

I couldn’t agree more but as I’ve said before, so many questions have been raised by so many agencies, that reopening the review, issuing a supplemental impact statement, and taking public comment again is essential.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Face of Connecticut

I learned a couple of new things on Friday afternoon when I drove to Storrs, to give a talk at the Connecticut Conference on Natural Resources.

First, the University of Connecticut really is in the middle of nowhere. After you reach Hartford you drive east for miles – I didn’t measure, but it seemed like 15 or 20 – and after you get off the interstate you drive south for another seven or so miles. Considering the school’s big agriculture and forestry departments, it’s hard to argue with its location; downtown Hartford would hardly be an appropriate spot for the dairy barn you pass, for example, on your way to the center of the campus. But I did get the feeling, somewhere around the Manchester exit of I 84, that you can’t get there from here.

Second, UConn is vast. That hadn’t occurred to me only because I didn’t realize that it has 18,000 students. But it’s a relatively pleasant place, with big pastures and new, well-kept buildings, and in that part of the state it seems as if you’re up high, on a plateau which, if only there weren’t so many trees, would give you a view straight south to Long Island Sound. I’d imagine, though, that when you're walking from one part of the campus to another in January and February, it gets a bit chilly.

I also saw during my drive (and not for the first time) that Connecticut isn’t very nice to look at, at least when you see it from the road. The sprawl-type development that you see everywhere as you drive along the interstates is awful, and the interstates themselves are major intrusions. I haven’t spent much time in Waterbury, for example, but it’s situated in a very pleasant valley that seems to me significantly marred by the giant concrete raised highways.

When I got to the conference I chatted briefly with Sandy Breslin, of Audubon Connecticut, who mentioned the big Face of Connecticut program that her organization and many others are pushing in the state Legislature. It was announced last month while I was away, and so I hadn’t paid much attention to it, but I looked it up over the weekend (here and here). The proposal basically brings together environmentalists and preservationists to try protect more land, and to protect and reuse Connecticut’s historic downtown areas. The state, apparently, has protected only an average of 1,100 acres a year in recent years, a pitiful figure. And as new subdivisions and strip malls and outlet centers are being built, downtowns that really aren’t so bad (Bridgeport, for one) are going begging for activity. The Face of Connecticut coalition wants the state to spend a billion dollars over the next 10 years to protect more land and encourage better land use decisions.

I say good luck. It’s unfortunate that efforts like this come together after the horse has left the barn. To my eye, if the Face of Connecticut proposal works, it will succeed in preventing Connecticut from looking worse than it is, perhaps. That’s an effort worth making, particularly if (unlike me) you live in Connecticut and have to confront its ugliness every day. But all it takes is an afternoon’s drive to realize that while the Face of Connecticut proposal might be a good one, the actual face of Connecticut might be beyond repair.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

FERC Should Do the Broadwater Environmental Study Again or Reject the LNG Proposal

I argued in the Times a few weeks back that FERC’s environmental impact statement for the Broadwater proposal was woefully lacking – its information and analysis were inadequate, according to virtually every government agency that reviewed it, and therefore FERC should begin work on a supplemental EIS and follow it with a new public review period. Until that happens, FERC should by no means approve the proposal to put a liquefied natural gas terminal in the middle of Long Island Sound.

The Broadwater people didn’t like that idea and subsequently wrote to FERC that even though there were lots of unanswered questions, it didn’t matter because the EIS was good enough.

On Friday though we got another example of why the Broadwater people are wrong. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wrote a second letter to FERC (the first was back in January); this one asked a lot of pertinent questions about the safety analysis, the safety zones that would be required around the LNG terminal and the tankers that will supply it, and the worst-case scenarios should their be a leak, a fire, an explosion. (To see the letter, click here, enter “Broadwater” in the text search box, and then look for a March 9 letter from the DEC.)

The basic message of the letter was that the EIS did not provide enough information or explanation for the DEC to be satisfied with its conclusions.

Government agencies would never say this officially but I’m sure some of them are thinking it. FERC needs to stop the bullshit.

If every government agency thinks the EIS is inadequate, then get to work fixing it and let us take a look at and comment on the results.

But if the Broadwater people insist that the EIS is good enough to base a decision on, then by all means make a decision: reject the proposal.

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Long Island Cesspools

Newsday has been writing at length yesterday and today about sewage issues on Long Island. Today’s story is about nitrogen in wastewater and its affect on local streams and on the Island’s aquifers. It’s worth a read, although I think today’s story is a bit sloppy in that it continually lumps cesspools with septic systems, and implies that the two are equally bad when it comes to contaminating groundwater. Maybe, maybe not. It is appalling though that Mastic is subdivided into quarter-acre lots (or smaller) and that they still use cesspools.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Long Island Sound's Three Corners

It's not exactly the Four Corners region of the American Southwest, but there's a spot in Long Island Sound where a boat can be in three states at once. Where?

... a little to the west of a line between Napatree Point, R.I., and East Point, Fishers Island ... a boat can be in the waters of Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York, all at the same time.

Now that you've whacked your forehead in astonishment, I should say that I found this fact in a column by Dave Sampson in the Norwich Bulletin, in which he discusses the pros and cons (pros, mostly) of a Connecticut proposal to require licenses for salt water fishing. One of Sampson's points is that it's a done deal. Federal law requires it, and the only choice is whether to let the state control it or hand it over to the feds.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Broadwater Files More Comments With FERC and Assures Us That Everything Is OK

Late last month the Broadwater people filed “supplemental comments” on the environmental impact statement FERC did to study the effects of the huge LNG terminal Broadwater wants to put in Long Island Sound.

The good news – great news, in fact – is that Broadwater has assured us in these supplemental comments that the LNG terminal will have no impacts at all! None! Not only that, but the review process has been as complete as anyone could possibly want!

A few examples: Broadwater has demonstrated that there’s a purpose and need for a major industrial facility in Long Island Sound. Safety considerations have been the subject of extensive review by experts, and safety is not a problem. Even if the animals that live on the bottom of the Sound, and the habitat on the bottom of the Sound itself, are destroyed, they’ll recover. All the hot water and chlorine that the terminal will discharge into the Sound will not do any environmental damage at all. Even though the National Marine Fisheries Service, the government agency whose job it is to oversee commercial fishing, says that the analysis of the impacts on commercial fishing are inadequate, they’re wrong – the analysis is perfectly adequate. The terminal will be located in publicly-owned waters and moored to the publicly-owned bottom of the Sound, and it will require a part of the publicly owned waters to be permanently off-limits to the public, but that does not mean that Broadwater would violate the public trust doctrine. New York State has indicated preliminarily that Broadwater would not be consistent with state policies for use of the coastal zone, but New York State is wrong.

So there you have it. End of discussion. The people who stand to profit enormously if Long Island Sound becomes the site of a huge industrial facility say that everything is all right, so everything must be all right, no?


Monday, March 05, 2007

Riding the Old Staten Island Ferry

I can think of only a handful of families who might feel a bit sentimental if and when these names -- The Dongan Hills and The Pvt. Joseph Merrill, The American Legion and The Cornelius G. Kolff, The Gold Star Mother, The Knickerbocker, The Mary Murray -- come to mind.

They were all Staten Island ferries in the 1960s, when my father worked on the ferry with men named Crawford and Bungay and Captain Arnesen, midnight to 8, 8 to 4, 4 to 12, depending on the week. When I was really young, he worked as a deckhand on the tug boats in the bay – one of the companies was based on Staten Island – but changed jobs for what I assume were the usual reasons: better (though still extremely modest) pay, better security, better benefits. He’d take me to work sometimes and bring me to the engine room, where the engineers worked in their t-shirts and wore bandanas around their heads and seemed always to be sweltering in the enormous heat and noise. And he’d bring me to the wheelhouse, where the captain would show me the radar and, when the boat was steaming safely, hand me the wheel and let me guide the ferry through a part of the bay where it didn’t need much guiding. For a few months in the early 1980s, long after my father had died and while I was between jobs, I lived in an apartment in Saint George, the Staten Island neighborhood where the ferry docks, and on afternoons when I had nothing else to do I'd ride back and forth, watching the gulls and the ships and the shoeshine men, and the grayish-green wake that the boat churned up.

The Dongan Hills was named after a neighborhood on Staten Island, the American Legion after the veterans group, the Gold Star Mother after women who had lost their sons in the wars, the Pvt. Joseph Merrill after one of those sons, a soldier whose heroism was described on a plaque on the boat. I didn’t know who Cornelius G. Kolff was and until this morning I didn’t know who Mary Murray was. It turns out though that she was a Revolutionary War figure, at least according to the Times, which has a story this morning about the old ferry. It sits in the mud on the Raritan River waiting for someone to figure out what to do with her. The Times describes the situation.

Other things left over from the weekend … The annual Long Island Sound Citizens summit was held Saturday on Long Island. Actual work (as opposed to doing this) prevented me from attending. But here’s Newsday’s account.

In an interview with Newsday, Timothy White, the new director of the Long Island Regional Planning Board, declined to take a stand on regional issues. His one exception: the Broadwater liquefied natural gas plant proposed for Long Island Sound:

"No one has made a convincing argument that Long Island needs Broadwater," he said.

And in the lower Housatonic and Naugatuck valleys there’s support for increasing Governor Jodi Rell’s Clean Water Fund budget proposal.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

$40 to Take a Photo of the Glass House (And You Get A Tour With It)

[Read 'Modern,' our new modern house blog, here.]

Philip Johnson’s Glass House is opening for tours in April. Given its location near New York City and its iconic status, demand is probably going to be high, and admission to the tours is priced accordingly: $25 for 90 minutes, or $40 for two hours. Tours will be limited to 10 people. On the two-hour tour you’ll be allowed to take photographs and sketch; no such activities will be tolerated on the 90-minute tour.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation owns the Glass House, and I don’t know if its no-photo policy will prevent intrepid photographers from taking photos over the stone wall, like this one:


The Glass House was on the New Canaan Historical Society’s 2001 Modern House Day tour but not on the 2005 tour, and I can’t imagine it will be on the upcoming Modern House Day, which is in the works for fall of 2007. My wife (whose firm is Gina Federico Graphic Design) has signed on to do the design work, and I’m going to write whatever text is needed for the ticket/brochure. But the estimable Laura Pla, who chaired the 2001 and 2004 Modern House Days, has moved to a modern apartment overlooking Lake Zurich, and someone else will have to take over that difficult volunteer job.

During the 2004 MHD, tour buses passed by one of New Canaan’s remaining Marcel Breuer houses so tour-goers could be told that it was on the market and in danger of being torn down. Also as part of the Modern House Day, Toshiko Mori gave a talk and discussed how she renovated this terrific house in New Canaan that was originally designed by John Black Lee. (Here's a shot of the Breuer house I took a couple of summers ago).

breuer west lane front facade 1

Not long after the 2004 Modern House Day, someone on the tour bought the Breuer house and is renovating it. He’s hired Toshiko Mori to do it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Here's How Broadwater Will Damage Lobster Fishing

The National Marine Fisheries Service said in January that one of the problems with the environmental impact statement FERC prepared for the Broadwater LNG terminal is that it neglected to analyze how the huge facility would damage fishermen who use that part of Long Island Sound (and I should add that NMFS pointed out only one of many problems with the EIS).

I’m sure NMFS wants to see hard economic data, but there’s also a human side to the issue, and the Long Island Business News has a terrific story by a reporter named Ross Daly that explores what Broadwater will mean to Long Island lobstermen from Mount Sinai Harbor east. It should be appended to the environmental impact statement.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Where the Bass Are

It’s possible that you’ve been wondering where all the striped bass hang out in winter. The answer is: in the Thames River, near Norwich.

John Torgan, the Narragansett Baykeeper, reprints on his blog an article by a fisherman named Al Anderson, who has been conducting a mark and recapture study of striped bass in the Thames for years. It’s a fascinating article. In it Anderson writes:

It appears that 30 or 40 thousand or more striped bass have congregated here each winter in recent times. In 1999 Bob Sampson, Jr. and I used an underwater video camera to survey an area in the basin at Chelsea Landing. In it was a school of fish 250 yds. long by 15 yds. wide by 10 yds. deep. Sampson calculated that approximately 30,000 fish made up this school. … Furthermore, my research uncovered a Boston newspaper article reporting that following a warm, wet Southeaster that broke up river ice, 20,000 stripers were haul-seined at Chelsea Landing over several days in February, 1729. Tremendous numbers of fish undoubtedly over-wintered here long before colonial times.

Chelsea Landing, for the uninitiated (like me), is an area below downtown Norwich. For the truly uninitiated, Thames is pronounced Thaymes in these parts.

Here’s Torgan’s blog.

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