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Hamptons Whodunit

Aired July 4, 2003 - 20:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A vanishing act worthy of Doug Henning (ph). Remember him, the world of illusion? It's created a buzz in one of America's playgrounds for the rich and famous. It seems somebody in the swanky, celebrity-filled town of East Hampton has made a pond disappear -- puff, gone, just like that. CNN's Maria Hinojosa has more now on the mystery of the wandering water.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Georgica pond. Fresh water curling in the evening fog. A quiet haven where fish spawn and rare seabirds nest. It's also where high society loves to rest.

JAMES MCCAFFREY, EAST HAMPTON TOWN CLERK: My quickest way of saying it to you, I wish we could go back 40 years and there wasn't anybody here, OK?

HINOJOSA: The people here now are among America's wealthiest. Ron Perlman, Calvin Klein, Steven Spielberg and Martha Stewart. The property values? One home priced at $50 million.

MCCAFFREY: There is a piece of property over there, little bit more than an acre, the people want $7 million for it.

HINOJOSA: When persistent rains swelled the pond, some basements flooded, and several owners wanted the pond drained. But Hampton's officials feared that might harm the endangered piping color (ph) bird. So earlier this week, under the cover of night, someone, who officials say knew what they were doing, dug a small trench connecting the pond and the ocean. Within hours, the pond water was gone, and so was the problem of the flooded basements.

JAY SCHNEIDERMAN, EAST HAMPTON TOWN SUPERVISOR: Sometimes people have to live with some flooding in their basement. Otherwise, you know, you end up destroying protected birds.

HINOJOSA (on camera): Animals above human beings? Some people might say?

SCHNEIDERMAN: No. Extinction above inconvenience, you know? This is -- there is no reversing it. If these birds disappear, there is no bringing them back. I can fix somebody's basement, you know?

HINOJOSA (voice-over): Not all celebrity homeowners are happy the pond was drained. Trend spotter Faith Popcorn says her beautiful pond now looks more like a swamp. FAITH POPCORN, AUTHOR AND HOMEOWNER: It's a little bit sad that one person or two people thought they were going to take our summer or our beautiful, you know, view, into their own hands.

HINOJOSA: Officials say they have no suspects.

POPCORN: The swans, the egrets, all these things that need to swim around and can't swim around anymore, and it was very, very beautiful here. But now I'm going to try and appreciate murky beauty. It's a little Harry Potter-ish.

HINOJOSA: And a little bit of a mystery in a Hamptons whodunit.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, East Hampton, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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