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May 13, 2019 1:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Peconic Baykeeper Looks To Town's Community Preservation Fund For Oyster Restoration Project

Peter Topping at the proposed nursery site at Cold Sping Pond on Monday VALERIE GORDON
May 13, 2019 1:23 PM

Cultivating oysters is in Peter Topping’s blood. Prior to becoming the newest Peconic Baykeeper in January, he seeded millions of shellfish, including clams and bay scallops, working as a bay management specialist with the East Hampton Shellfish Hatchery.

The Southampton resident is now looking to bring those skills to the Peconic Baykeeper—a not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the quality of Long Island’s waters.

He hatched a plan earlier this year to build what he called an “in-shore nursery” to grow roughly 80,000 oysters in Cold Spring Pond—an inlet south of Peconic Bay.

However, the first step in accomplishing his goal, is to gain approval from the Southampton Town Board. He asked the board to cover $35,000 in start-up costs using the town’s Community Preservation Fund.

Assistant Town Planning Director Janice Scherer and CPF Manager Lisa Kombrink met with the Town Board to discuss the proposal, among others, at a work session earlier this month.

Mr. Topping hopes to start cultivating the first spat of oysters in late June or early July. Toward the end of the season, in mid-October, approximately 5,000 of the shellfish would be transferred to a 5-acre plot in Great Peconic Bay—northwest of the Shinnecock Canal—to be used for educational programs.

The remaining oysters would be distributed throughout Southampton Town for restoration purposes. Mr. Topping explained that they could be placed in one of several shellfish sanctuaries—including Red Creek Pond, North Sea Harbor, and Shinnecock Bay—or put in areas open to harvesting, such as Cold Spring Pond.

He added that there are many natural benefits provided by oysters that most people aren’t aware of. For example, he said, one adult oyster can filter roughly 50 gallons of water per day, as well as remove half of a gram of nitrogen.

“The catch is, to remove that nitrogen from the water, you actually have to harvest the oysters,” he said, calling it a “win-win” for recreational and commercial fisherman.

In addition to obtaining CPF approval, Mr. Topping must also get approval from the Southampton Town Trustees Board, which have jurisdiction over the proposed nursery site.

At an initial meeting with the Trustees, to discuss his proposal, Mr. Topping said that the five-member board was supportive of the project. The next step, after being awarded the funding, is hashing out the remaining details with the Trustees.

Mr. Topping hopes to enter into a five-year contract with the Trustees, which would allow Peconic Baykeeper to use one of two potential sites within Cold Spring Pond for the in-shore nursery.

Trustee Secretary-Treasurer Scott Horowitz said on Monday that the board was in favor of the project, as well as any project that proposes an overall benefit to clean water.

“Obviously you need some place to start the process to get these things to successfully grow,” he said. “We like to work with people who are experienced and find a way to have a thriving shellfish population and have the best water quality possible.”

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Let the Shinnacock Nation be involved in this effort.Include the members.
By watchdog1 (542), Southampton on May 23, 19 10:58 AM
People on the reservation already grow oysters. They had a oyster growing operation more then 20 yrs ago.
By Fred s (3163), Southampton on May 23, 19 11:07 AM
Let the billboards pay for it.
By even flow (983), East Hampton on May 23, 19 11:12 AM
Silly boy, the CPF is strictly to buy up successful businesses and turn this town into a retirement community, we all know that!
By banned (191), Hampton Bays on May 23, 19 11:15 AM
Lets take care of our bays and creeks... Southampton bay bottom for southampton residents....
Didn't the shinnecock oyster project stop for a long time, then restart again about 10 years ago? What happened to the north sea project?
By knitter (1893), Southampton on May 23, 19 1:40 PM
I know the oyster project stopped awhile ago, I’m not sure the reason.
By Fred s (3163), Southampton on May 23, 19 1:44 PM
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