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Letter: Keep inlet open for Bay health

Long Island Newsday online

Regarding the new inlet in the Great South Bay ["Breach: To fill, or not to fill?" Letters, Feb. 15]: For two decades, I have investigated the coastal waters of Long Island with a focus on processes that promote harmful algal blooms and that affect coastal resources such as bivalves and eelgrass. During this time, the harmful algal blooms have intensified, and bivalves and eelgrass beds have become scarce.

Across Long Island, harmful algal blooms occur in regions that are poorly flushed and are subject to intense nitrogen loading. The new inlet in the Great South Bay, therefore, has created an opportunity to lessen the impact on this system.

The enhanced tidal exchange will be particularly important during summer months, when water quality is worst. I expect that, during summer, the inlet will introduce cool, clear, low-nitrogen and less-acidic water, and lessen the stress on bivalves and eelgrass.

It has long been said that dilution is the solution to pollution. The creation of the inlet offers a unique opportunity for nature to dilute nitrogen pollution in the Great South Bay and make it great once again.

Christopher J. Gobler, Stony BrookSee the article online at Long Island Newsday

beds and a decline in fish and shellfish populations.

In 2010, the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Project began, with the project now already moving into its second phase and third year.

"The pilot studies undertaken by SoMAS during the summers of 2010 and 2011 have provided valuable information to inform future restoration projects," Gobler said. "The goal is to eventually reach a 'tipping point' where the natural populations of shellfish will begin to recover and eelgrass beds will expand within the bay."

Friday's boat tour found Gobler and members of his team gathering data from measured and evaluated water temperatures, nutrient levels, water clarity, algal densities and more. In seeking to enhance the natural filtration capacity of the ecosystem with shellfish, the team restocked multiple species of shellfish with wild plantings, caged plantings that they monitor regularly.

The bay's nutrient levels are being measured with seaweed. The aquatic plants absorb large amounts of nutrients, and by removing nutrients, the plants can have an inhibitory effect on harmful algae, including red and brown tide.

Expanding the eelgrass beds is another important area of interest for the Stony Brook and Southampton teams.

Not only were shoots of eelgrass planted, they also focused on releasing seeds and genotyping eelgrass to ensure that specific strains of eelgrass are properly matched with the prevailing conditions of the bay. Abundant eelgrass beds also promote more sustainable habitats for fish.

Now that fall is here, it's time for assessment after the passed two year's efforts.

So far, according to Gobler and his team's findings, results show that both juvenile and adult stage oysters were more resistant to the effects of high temperature and brown tide than other shellfish. Also a water sample taken from eastern Shinnecock Bay was clear, while a water sample taken from the western Shinnecock Bay was yellow and murky, resulting from being plagued by a brown tide bloom. The samples were taken from both sides on the same day.

Since the restoration project received $3 million this year in two $1.5 million philanthropic gifts from the Laurie Landeau Foundation and the Simons Foundation, coming up with funding for the project has been less of a strain. Continuing on with the proposed five year plan for the project will no doubt be easier since funding is now firmly in place.

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