Fish farm owners sell nearby land to Scenic Hudson

GREENPORT—Scenic Hudson has acquired a new parcel of 173 acres between Routes 9 and 9G, scenic property the organization calls ecologically important and critical to the quality of the town’s water supply.

The seller was the family corporation that also owns an adjacent site where the fish farm formerly called Local Ocean is located, although the land bought by Scenic Hudson was subdivided as a separate parcel before the fish farm project began. A Scenic Hudson official said this week that his organization had been negotiating a purchase of the 173 acres in the uplands above the old South Bay for several years.

The Greenport property purchased by Scenic Hudson includes forests, clay bluffs, a 65-acre complex of tidal and freshwater wetlands, over a mile of frontage along the main channel of South Bay Creek—which flows into the Hudson River through South Bay in the City of Hudson—and dozens of the creek’s secondary channels and tributary streams. The press release announcing the purchase said the land purifies and replenishes the aquifer supplying the primary source of drinking water for Greenport, which has its wellheads on adjacent property.

A portion of the property also is visible from Olana State Historic Site, which attracts more than 170,000 visitors annually and generates economic activity in surrounding communities estimated at nearly $8 million. Since 1992 Scenic Hudson and its conservation partners have protected more than 2,400 acres visible from Olana.

The acquisition is part of the organization’s ongoing Saving the Land That Matters Most campaign. Kelly Boling, senior land project manager at Scenic Hudson negotiated the transaction. He said Tuesday, September 3, that Scenic Hudson and its partners in land agreements generally don’t publicize the purchase price of land acquisitions, but he said the price for this latest section of Greenport land was “well below market value.”

“The piece we bought is mostly clay ravines and wetlands,” he said, adding that that the property was not suitable for development and does not appear to have been used for industrial purposes in the past.

Scenic Hudson says its land purchases in this part of Greenport are focused on protecting ecologically important lands along South Bay Creek. The newly acquired land is immediately east of 148 acres in the South Bay watershed previously protected by Scenic Hudson and is adjacent to the state-designated South Bay Creek and Marsh Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat.

In addition to providing habitat for numerous rare plant species, the property will accommodate the inland migration of species whose habitats face inundation likely to result from sea level rise in the Hudson River and South Bay caused by climate change.

The non-profit organization says that in pursuing its goal of habitat protection and recreational use along South Bay Creek it plans to conduct outreach with local residents and community leaders to learn more about how people would like to see these lands managed.

One long-term possibility is to establish trail linkages along a larger “cultural and conservation corridor” between the City of Hudson, South Bay Creek, Olana, the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, the Village of Catskill and RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary.

“We’re excited to seize this opportunity to conserve more land in the South Bay watershed. Safeguarding this property’s natural treasures not only supports our longstanding efforts to restore the bay’s ecological health, but also ensures that Olana will offer visitors access to inspiring world-class views,” Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said in the release.

Greenport Town Supervisor John Porreca could not be reached Tuesday.

Scenic Hudson is marking its 50th anniversary this year. The organization was founded in 1963 to protect Storm King Mountain in the Hudson Highlands from a proposed power plant. The successful campaign lasted 17.

Scenic Hudson’s campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most is a multi-year, collaborative effort with fellow land trusts, governments, individuals and businesses to protect lands of the highest scenic, ecological and agricultural significance throughout the Hudson Valley. Since initiating the campaign in 2007, Scenic Hudson has conserved 8,537 acres and its land trust partners an additional 2,385 acres throughout the region.

This property, combined with others preserved by Scenic Hudson and the Town of Greenport, creates a protected assemblage of 500 contiguous acres in the South Bay watershed. The largest remaining privately held property not destined for some form of public use in South Bay area is owned by the multi-national cement manufacturing company Holcim, which owns the land and facilities of its former subsidiary St. Lawrence Cement.

The latest Greenport transaction was completed with funds from Scenic Hudson’s Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment and helped by the owner’s willingness to convey the property at a reduced price, which Scenic Hudson called “generous.”

Local Ocean began operating a large scale aquaculture facility in an old factory on Route 9G south of the City of Hudson in 2009. But the start-up company ran out of funds this summer and the building was auctioned for back taxes at the County Courthouse August 20. The buyer was Michael Spielman, a member of the Long Island family corporation that had held the mortgage for the building.

Mr. Boling confirmed this week that it was Mr. Spielman’s family that also owned the land east of the plant and sold it to Scenic Hudson. But he said that the Scenic Hudson transaction was unrelated to the fate of Local Ocean.

The fish farm still has hundreds of thousands of fish that the failed company had hoped to sell to supermarkets. There are also an estimated two million gallons of saltwater there that must be disposed of properly and cannot be dumped on the ground or released into local waterways, including the Hudson River.

Mr. Spielman’s lawyer for the auction, Victor Meyers of Hudson, was away on vacation and unavailable for comment.

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