I am proud to represent the North Fork in Congress and appreciate the opportunity to respond directly to recent criticism of my record in the local media.
I write knowing that reasonable people seek to form their opinions and statements based on facts, and I am confident that an impartial assessment of my record shows that I have been an effective representative of the interests of Southold and Riverhead.
First, experience has taught me that it is difficult to amend federal legislation to benefit a specific area. However, I was able to insert an amendment into the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act to permanently protect funding for the nationally renowned Navy Junior ROTC program operating in the Southold, Mattituck and Greenport school districts. As part of this effort, I lobbied the defense department directly with a petition I organized in support of the program, signed by over 1,000 residents. This program has been cited as among the finest in the country, and I am proud of the role I played in ensuring its future.
I hope the list of some of the federal funding I secured for the North Fork since first being elected in 2002 will disprove the assertion that I have “done nothing” for the community.
In 2005, I secured a grant of $1.5 million to Southold Town to protect 58 acres along Long Island Sound, formerly the Jackie Bittner property, located between Goldsmith Inlet Park and Peconic Dunes County Park.
In 2010, $500,000 went to East End Health Alliance for its Health Information Technology Initiative. As part of a long-term highway bill, $1 million helped remediate road runoff in the Peconic estuary watershed and $240,000 came to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety on Route 25 in Jamesport.
In 2006, Greenport received $500,000 for a pedestrian connection project. In that same community, Eastern Long Island Hospital received $100,000 in 2004 for facility improvements.
On the environmental front, $90,000 went to improvements to Hashamomuck Cove in 2010. And as part of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, I secured $3.89 million for the Greenport wastewater facility and $690,000 for the Orient causeway, which was in danger of being swamped by Peconic Bay but is now well protected.
Mattituck Inlet has been a focus for me since I took office. From 2003-10 I secured $1.454 million in federal funds to advance dredging and other infrastructure improvements to the inlet and inner harbor using earmarks. This includes $700,000 to dredge the inlet in 2004, the first time it had been dredged since 1990. That dredge cleared the channel to its authorized depth and width under federal law, and came in $92,000 under budget, something we should all applaud.
Once the project was complete, the leftover funds were assigned by the Army Corps to support a necessary dredging of the Patchogue River for the Fire Island ferries. The widely repeated accusation that funding was diverted to the South Fork, leaving the dredge work unfinished, is simply not true. I hope that those who have been repeating this falsehood will cease doing so.
I share the frustration of the community with the delays in implementing the Mattituck inlet erosion project, which I have consistently pushed forward both with earmarked funding totaling $300,000 and by advocating directly with the Army Corps. The Army Corps is currently conducting its periodic survey of the channel, which is expected to be completed in April.
It is important to note that the corps’ 2010 survey of the inlet concluded that it had remained at the authorized depth and width over the six years since the ’04 dredging. Pursuant to the corps’ findings, I will continue to work with local elected officials and stakeholders to see the project through despite severe cuts to the Army Corps budget and scarce federal resources, as well as a ban on earmarks put in place by Republican leadership in the House of Representatives.
I am proud of my work on behalf of the North Fork and its hardworking residents, and will continue to fight for the area’s interests using every tool at my disposal. I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight.
Mr. Bishop represents eastern Suffolk in Congress. He lives in Southampton.