Suffolk County and Brookhaven town officials announced Wednesday what they called a “watershed moment” for the future of the imperiled Carmans River when they preserved 171 acres near its banks from development.

The parcel of environmentally sensitive land reportedly marked the largest acquisition in the history of the Carmans River watershed protection project. It came about when the Suffolk County Legislature passed Tuesday a resolution to approve the purchase of the acreage from the developer Avalon Bay Communities, Inc., splitting the $4 million cost between the county and the township.

“These are the most significant land holdings left in the Carmans River watershed, and have been the number one priority for preservation for years,” Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) said in a press release. “We have taken a major step forward in implementing the Carmans River Watershed Protection and Management Plan, and are ensuring that this river will remain a pristine water body for future generations.”

Designated a New York State Wild and Scenic River Corridor, the 10-mile long river flowing from the heart of the Central Pine Barrens forest is an important source of freshwater feeding into the Great South Bay. For years, protecting its 9,100-acre watershed has been a priority for environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy and the Pine Barrens Society, which helped create the Carmans River plan that places the 1,400 acres closest to the river under strict restrictions on fertilizer use and development.

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The newly preserved 171 acres, mostly consisting of an oak-pitch pine forest, are on the north side of Mill Road in Yaphank and Medford. It’s estimated that it recharges 267,000 gallons of clean water daily, or 98 million gallons a year, to the underlying drinking water aquifers.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said he looks forward to enacting plans to acquire more open space throughout the town. Also on hand for the announcement were Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, braving the near-freezing weather without an overcoat, Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), the legislative majority leader, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert, Long Island Pine Barrens Society’s executive director Richard Amper, the Nature Conservancy’s Randy Parsons and The Open Space Council’s Marilyn England.

“This acquisition represents a major step in the ultimate protection of the Carmans River,” said Amper. “Its size and strategic location will go a long way toward protecting the Carmans River in the future.”

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