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Aug 2, 2016 11:04 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Trustees Setting Baseline For Accabonac Water Quality Ahead Of Clearing Culvert

The Town Trustees are doing baseline testing to prepare for the opening of the Accabonac Culvert. KYRIL BROMLEY
Aug 2, 2016 2:48 PM

Scientists working for the East Hampton Town Trustees are compiling water quality data in Accabonac Harbor, in anticipation of the Trustees re-opening the flow of water from Gardiners Bay through the culvert under Gerard Drive.

The Trustees have asked that the three-year old nitrogen data collection effort in all of the town’s harbors be expanded in Accabonac to include levels of other water-born nutrients as they consider whether to unplug the culvert and restore tidal flows into the northwestern corner of the harbor.

Trustee Rick Drew said that he and other Trustees believe opening the culvert’s flow from the bay is an important step to boosting water quality in Accabonac and they plan to apply to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for new permits to clear the sand clogging it for the last four years. But before they do, they want to have data that will demonstrate whether their assumptions about the water quality benefits to the culvert being open are accurate.

“We want to take a close look at it first and take the most careful course of action,” Mr. Drew said. “We lost 20 acres of bottomlands to shellfishing in there this year. People … want to keep that water clean, they want to get schoolie stripers in the spring and hard clams in the summer and they want to get oysters in the fall.”

The state DEC closed 20 acres of the harbor’s southern reaches to shellfishing because of high bacteria levels. The water testing in the harbor which is being conducted by scientists from Stony Brook University, is recording levels of nitrogen, chlorophyll, phytoplankton and coliform bacteria.

The culvert was installed under Gerard Drive at the Trustees’ behest in 2005. After it was built, at a cost of some $700,000, the culvert quickly filled with sand in north winds common in fall and winter and required annual maintenance excavations. The excavations were done each year with permits issued to the town’s Department of Natural Resources.

But since 2012 the culvert has been left clogged, after state permits expired and were not renewed by Natural Resources in the wake of questions about the benefits of the extra flow into the harbor. Re-opening the culvert was a marquee issue for most of the Democratic Trustee candidates, who took back the board’s majority last year. The board has not yet applied to the DEC to re-open the culvert.

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