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Aug 27, 2012 12:02 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Stony Brook Gets $3 Million To Help Restore Western Shinnecock Bay

Aug 29, 2012 9:59 AM

With tubs of growing shellfish bubbling with water drawn directly from Shinnecock Bay in the background, officials from the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences announced on Monday that the program has received $3 million in private donations that will seed a plan developed by scientists from the school to attempt to restore water quality, shellfish populations and marine life in the blighted western reaches of Shinnecock Bay.

Standing on the lawn at the university’s Marine Sciences Research Center at the Stony Brook Southampton campus in Shinnecock Hills on Monday morning, deans and professors from the acclaimed school said they hoped the money, which comes from a donation by the Laurie Landeau Foundation and a matching grant from the Simons Foundation, will help the school conduct a restoration program guided by the strict fundamentals of science that will be held up in the future as model for other estuarine restorations around the country and the world.

“Too often restoration projects are not based on science,” Laurie Landeau, an aquatic veterinarian and a member of the Dean’s Council of SOMAS, told a large crowd of local officials, environmental activists and school scientists. “Let’s demonstrate what science, together with a little well-placed financial support, can do to help the environment.”

The restoration initiative will be led by a team of the school’s marine science professors and students who have been working on western Shinnecock Bay for a decade, and have watched and documented its steady devolution into what one scientist said earlier this year has effectively become biological sterility.

The restoration efforts will focus primarily on boosting clam stocks—in massive amounts—expanding the presence of eelgrass beds in the bay and finding ways to battle the harmful algae blooms that have infected the western end of the bay for more than two decades.

The program will use the scientific data about conditions throughout the western end of the bay and observations from laboratories that Stony Brook scientists and students have compiled over a decade of close monitoring to target the project’s efforts at the regions that are the most likely to boost success. The scientists have identified specific areas of the bay where shellfish and eelgrass beds stand the best chance of thriving and thus the best chance of helping, slowly, bring the bay back from the brink.

In the last two years, Stony Brook scientists have been at the forefront of a long list of discoveries about the problems facing western Shinnecock Bay. Two years ago, they were the first to sound the alarm about the presence of a red algae species that infects shellfish with biotoxins that can be harmful, even fatal, to humans, which has led to the closure of shellfish harvesting in the western portion of the bay two years in a row.

Last year, researchers from the school announced that they had, for the first time, charted the connections between the declining water quality in western Shinnecock, and other bays around Long Island, and the septic systems of residential homes within the bays’ watersheds.

And just this spring, the school’s researchers released the results of a study that showed that essentially none of the various shellfish species that inhabit the Shinnecock Bay—including millions placed there by environmentalists and local government programs in hopes that they would help jump-start natural population growth—had successfully spawned in its western half in recent years.

Along with their gloomy reports, scientists from the school said that the best hope for restoring the bay to its former glory is to halt the influx of nitrogen-laden water from residential septic systems and rain runoff carrying chemical fertilizers from lawns. But in trumpeting the new effort to turn around recent trends, naturally, the school’s officials were brimming with hope.

“Despite all this gloom, I am actually an optimist,” said Dr. Chris Gobler, a SOMAS professor who has led the researchers, first from Southampton College and now from Stony Brook, that have been monitoring the bay and its machinations for more than a decade. “How exciting it would be if we can bring back this fabulous body of water to its previous productivity and health.”

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Thanks Dr. Golbler and thanks to your fellow students who have worked so hard researching all of this. No doubt you will all be able to come up with a plan to restore the Bay to its previous productive status.

And a special thanks to Simons for donating so much $$. It really makes up for the gaffe of recommending Madoff investments in which Stony Brook got badly burned (to the tune of $5.4 million)
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 27, 12 12:45 PM
Nice gift, but this may be a drop in the bucket (so to speak), compared to the long-range need to replace the domestic septic systems which may be found to cause the problem directly?

The placement of human waste near the bays, and above the Island's aquifer, is a systemic problem of gigantic proportions. Attempted remediation without a new method of storing/treating the waste material is short-sighted it seems to me.

More people --> more houses --> more cesspools --> more you ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 27, 12 1:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
What are they going to do, throw the money in the water?
By patrickstar (67), hampton bays on Aug 27, 12 5:23 PM
Assuming the question above was intended for me . . .

The money should be put to good use within the intent of the gift, of course.

The broader point IMO, however, is that research and implementation of the steps mentioned in the article will lead to the permanent health of our bays (and groundwater aquifer) ONLY IF we keep our eyes on the larger ball in the air.

If we keep putting more and more human waste in the ground, then the laudable goal of healthy bays and groundwater ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 27, 12 5:39 PM
No scientific paper or study could find a statistically significant correlation between brown tide and nutrients from human activity near the bays. Biological analysis trying to grow the brown tide in water with high nutrients showed no causal relationships. There was one paper by a Stoney Brook professor who made unfounded conclusion without any scientifically acceptable analysis. His paper was not peer reviewed.

No one has looked at a likely cause to the biological imbalance in the bays. ...more
By Al_East (1), Southampton on Aug 27, 12 5:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thanks for the feedback. The absence of a correlation to-date, of course, does not prove or disprove anything. Similar to DDT in the 1950's -- no one could prove it damaged osprey eggs at the time. Once it was banned, the ospreys returned. Subsequent studies verified the causal link many many years after the damage was almost permanently done!

Human waste leaching into creeks and bays is IMO a no-brainer as at least one cause of imbalance in the bays, and eventually the causal link will ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 27, 12 6:54 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 27, 12 7:09 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 27, 12 7:09 PM
Western Shinnecock, Quantuck Bay & Eastern Moriches Bay should all be periodically flushed with fresh ocean water. The ideal solution would be what the Trustees do at Mecox Bay -- cut through the barrier beach periodically to make a temporary inlet. When Pike's Inlet was opened by a storm years ago, there was a noticeable improvement in water quality and shellfish quantity in Moriches Bay. Aftrer it closed, they deteriorated again.

Since inlets aren't feasible in these locations, the ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Aug 27, 12 6:02 PM
We could all bath on the beautiful Hamptons beaches in poop. Maybe we could collect the waste and ship it to NJ. Newark seems like a good spot and Tony Soprano will pay good money to take it.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Aug 28, 12 8:49 AM
I agree with Turkey Bridge. There was a cut in Quantuck years ago. Since there are so many more houses on Quantuck ,the only option is to open a cut there. But then again, who are we to flush their crap into the ocean?
By clamdigger (85), Quogue on Aug 27, 12 8:26 PM
... forget the pipe job. Dig the channel from Moriches to Shinnecock to a depth of eight feet. Plenty of clean salt water with every high tide - also safe to navigate.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Aug 27, 12 8:37 PM
What depth do you think it is at now? 6 at the shallowest? There is not nearly enough clean flow between Moriches and Shinnecock via the canal to make any difference whatsoever.

Making cuts into the bays is not going to happen for a variety of reasons. First off, it requires permitting from the Towns/Villages/State/Army Corp and almost certainly Feds (due to piping plovers). Secondly, it would pretty expensive and we know how everyone feels about a raise in taxes (even if it's nominal). ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 27, 12 9:43 PM
Thank You, Ms. Landeau. Thank You very much.
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Aug 27, 12 10:30 PM
There was a tremendous set of clams in the 70's and back then duck farms were spewing nitrogen into the bays. How do you explain that ?
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Aug 28, 12 2:07 AM
What contributes to the decline in an active finfish and shellfish population in the area are the hundred's of homes
that line the shore going from Quogue west. Each and every one of them seems to be in competition with the next to have the greenest lawn possible. And that lawn has to go right up to the bulkhead or wetland boundary . I'm not so sure it is showing offf as much as it is a lack of education on how the lawns effect the water and wetlands. Because if they knew what they were doing ...more
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 28, 12 7:54 AM
Use the $3M to reopen the dorms so that marine students can attend to the waters 24/7, as opposed to commuting from Stony Brook.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Aug 28, 12 8:10 AM
Why is there a picture of Tim Bishop related to this grant?
By sren (3), East Hampton on Aug 28, 12 9:31 AM
Because he is up for re-election? /no explanation
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 28, 12 10:16 AM
The photo of Mr. Bishop, and the others attached to the story, are from a press conference on Monday at the school to announce the gift. The story will be updated to include comments from the event.
By Bill Sutton, Managing Editor (117), Westhampton Beach on Aug 28, 12 11:05 AM
The only photo on this story is Rep. Tim Bishop appearing to give him credit for the gifts of 2 foundations. The story doesn't support this.
27East is giving an unfair (political) edge with this photo.

PS: There has not been any updates.
By sren (3), East Hampton on Aug 29, 12 9:40 AM
sren - if you click on "view all images" you will see photos of others at the event - including one of the donors. Also, the article was updated, but not noticeably. That being said, it is stupid to have Bishops mug up there. Why not Gobler? Or the woman donating half the $? It looks like there's some political pandering going on here.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 29, 12 9:45 AM
Nature (953)
Thanks. You stated it better than I did.
By sren (3), East Hampton on Aug 29, 12 9:59 AM
@ Bill/Editor Bill:

Still no real logical explination as to why Bishop's photo is featured on this article. We all know you guys are backig him but come on - his name doesn't appear ONCE in the article. Not ONE time, and yet there is his mug for all to see and attach to the headline about a $3 million gift.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 30, 12 2:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wev all know that 27 east in all their leftist glory supports L'il Tim and the rest of the Demokrat cabal. No story here, move along.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Sep 5, 12 2:34 PM