Because I believe this deserves consideration, I am sharing my concerns with our community.
In one body of water (Mill Pond), the Trustees are proposing to eliminate all carp because they “churn” the bottom to feed. The sediments they churn up are believed to be the primary driver of recurring harmful algal blooms in the pond.
If this theory holds true, the process of power churning for shellfish should be banned in all town waters from May through October, when conditions are most favorable for algal blooms in marine waters. Some of these algal blooms (brown tides and red tides) pose a threat to shellfish populations, while others pose public health risks from paralytic and diarrheatic shellfish poisoning.
It will be argued that a freshwater pond cannot be compared to a saltwater bay, but I maintain that the plume created behind an outboard motor has the potential to be held waterborne much longer due to winds and tide, giving it the potential to settle much farther from the initial site of disturbation.
Eelgrass beds are recognized by scientists and the Town of Southampton for their vital role as both shellfish and finfish nurseries. Eelgrass beds have also incurred substantial die-offs in town waters. Current rules and regulations do not address potential new recruitment sites, where smaller plants may be recolonizing or beds may be expanding through their root systems.
Shellfish primarily spawn during late spring and early summer months. While churning during the winter months may be argued to create conditions beneficial to shellfish recruitment, churning through areas where larval shellfish have just settled and are most vulnerable is likely to have the opposite effect.
I also asked the Trustees to revise the rules pertaining to churning from the standpoint of public safety. Dredging with a motor creates a trench — approximately 36 inches wide, 18 to 24 inches deep, and 50 yards long — that initially causes the rise of a thick plume of silt behind the dredging boat. After the plume settles, the significant trench that remains is a danger for others using the bay.
The first point of stewardship for the Trustees is to “preserve public access to the water.” This is currently being denied to residents in the waters of Shinnecock Bay along Meadow Lane due to churning for shellfish.
With the understanding that our town bays and bay bottoms are a shared public resource, in its current state, Shinnecock Bay has been left dangerous for recreational use after being churned.
Ed HurleyWater Mill
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