06/13/15 5:59am
06/13/2015 5:59 AM
Bunker fish at Nassau Point Sunday morning. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Bunker fish at Nassau Point Sunday morning. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

We’ve been reminded a lot in recent weeks that fish kills are a regular occurrence in these parts, and aren’t anything new.

These comments are being made mostly to cast doubt on assertions by scientists and other researchers that high nitrogen levels and the resulting algal blooms are to blame for depleted oxygen levels in area waters — hence all the dead fish. Yes, local environmental organizations have used recent fish kills to push their agendas — albeit noble ones — and figure out how to prevent such high levels of nitrogen from reaching our waters moving forward. But they’re doing so for good reason.

There were bunker kills in 2008 and 2009 as well — and there’s no denying that massive kills have been happening for as long as anyone around here can remember. But it’s also a fact that for generations, Long Islanders from Brooklyn to Montauk have been polluting our waters with chemicals, fertilizers and, if you go back far enough, even raw sewage.

Just because people weren’t talking about nitrogen in the 1960s or 1970s doesn’t mean it didn’t play a part in fish kills back then, or even just a few years ago. It’s only relatively recently that researchers have been able to identify nitrogen — most of it coming from our wastewater — as the culprit responsible for the unhealthy state of our local estuaries and shellfish.

The passage and funding of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the funding that came with it, along with fertilizer restrictions and more efficient sewer treatment plants, have improved the state of our bays and Long Island Sound. But it’s all been a zero-sum game in the face of nonstop residential and commercial development.

With development came people, and their outdated septic systems — all sending more waste into groundwater and surrounding surface waters. Deny that or not, but wouldn’t common sense dictate we shouldn’t go to the bathroom where we drink? People in Southold and more rural areas of Riverhead are right to be wary of installing more public sewers, because that does often lead to more housing, but they can’t have it both ways. The movement now is toward figuring out more efficient methods of filtering our residential waste, and doing so in a way that’s financially feasible.

Even if people are skeptical of the researchers, keeping our most precious resource as clean as possible is a goal worthy of time, attention and, most of all, government funding — because it’s clear that developing, installing and maintaining newer technologies is going to be expensive.

03/31/15 12:00pm
03/31/2015 12:00 PM
The town adopted regulations for flyboarding (pictured) at a meeting on March 18. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The town adopted regulations for flyboarding (pictured) at a meeting on March 18. (Credit: Paul Squire)

After debating the issue numerous times since last summer — in fact, the word “flyboard” appears in 12 headlines in the News-Review online archives — the Riverhead Town Board adopted new regulations for flyboarding at its March 18 meeting, where the vote took place without much debate near 11 p.m., after a four-hour meeting.

But the owner of Flyboard LI, the company that brought flyboarding to the waters of downtown Riverhead last summer, says he’s leaving rather than trying to adapt to the new rules, which would push the activity out into deeper water near the Route 105 bridge.

“Unfortunately they are kicking a great new startup business out of town,” Flyboard LI owner James Bissett IV said via email. (more…)

07/11/14 8:00am
07/11/2014 8:00 AM
Aquaculturist Bren Smith of Thimble Island Oyster Company in Connecticut is the first sugar kelp grower to cultivate the sea vegetable from Long Island Sound waters. He is working with food industry insiders, including expert chefs from New York City, and international supermarket chains to help drive market demand for domestically grown kelp products. (Credit: Bren Smith)

Aquaculturist Bren Smith of Thimble Island Oyster Company in Connecticut is the first sugar kelp grower to cultivate the sea vegetable from Long Island Sound waters. He is working with food industry insiders, including expert chefs from New York City, and international supermarket chains to help drive market demand for domestically grown kelp products. (Credit: Bren Smith)

It’s a delicacy Asian cultures have enjoyed for centuries but is more commonly thought of as the slippery — and sometimes slimy — brown stuff that grows naturally in area waters and then washes up on beaches.

And one day, it could be a major moneymaker for the North Fork.  (more…)

12/10/13 7:00am
12/10/2013 7:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Scallops for sale at Southold Fish Market.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Scallops for sale at Southold Fish Market.

This year’s scalloping season has area baymen working harder and residents paying more for those tasty, blue-eyed gems of the Peconic.

The cautious optimism that greeted the Nov. 4 opening day of the local Atlantic bay scallop season is no more, as those searching for and those selling the popular shellfish said the season is “worse” than most.

“It can take a half a day at least to get one [bushel],” said Ed Densieski of Riverhead. “My numbers are definitely off.”

While commercial baymen are permitted to harvest up to 10 bushels a day, Mr. Densieski said a full day’s work is only landing him two or three bushels at best.

Southold Baymen’s Association president Nathan Andruski said he was also seeing limited landings, catching about three or four bushels a day – depending on the weather.

While area fishermen are feeling the pressure out on the water, area residents are feeling it at the register.

The cost for a pound of Peconic bay scallops has ticked up from an initial $18 to the current cost of $21, said Southold Fish Market owner Charlie Manwaring.

“The price is definitely up,” Mr. Manwaring said.

But, he added, it’s better to buy scallops on this side of the bay rather than in the pricier “Hamptons” market.

“It is a lot cheaper on this side than it is on the South Fork,” Mr. Manwaring said.

A pound of scallops at Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays will run you $24.75, or $29.95 at Clamman Seafood Market in Southampton, according to sales associates at each location.

Mr. Manwaring said the quantity is “probably half of what we were doing last year — and the price last year was cheap because there were so many around,” he said. “I sell out every day.”

Ken Homan of Braun Seafood in Cutchogue said a pound of scallops cost just $12 about this time last year, adding that it has been difficult to freeze scallops to offer to customers year round.

“Last year at this time I had frozen over 6,000 pounds and this year I have only froze over a couple hundred,” he said, saying it might impact the availability later on.

The scalloping season ends on March 31.

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09/13/13 2:29pm

AMANDA RILEY PHOTO | A water spout formed over Peconic Bay waters this afternoon.

North Fork residents said what appeared to be a waterspout formed over Peconic Bay waters Friday afternoon. And many took photos to prove it.

A spout is a whirling column of wind and mist that resembles a tornado, according to a National Weather Service description.

Joey Picca of the National Weather Service said a small storm cell was passing over the Riverhead and Mattituck area about 2 p.m.

Click below for more photos:

08/20/13 10:00am
08/20/2013 10:00 AM
Bill Portlock Courtesy Photo | Rust tide in the Peconic estuary last year.

BILL PORTLOCK COURTESY PHOTO | Rust tide in the Peconic estuary last year.

The harmful algal bloom known as rust tide has once again been detected in Peconic Bay waters — marking the 10th consecutive year the finfish and shellfish-harming algae has appeared in bay waters, according to Stony Brook University researchers.

The rust tide algae, known as Cochlodinium polykrikoides, can be lethal to marine life in levels above 500 cells per milliliter. The algae has not been found harmful to humans, however.

Densities recorded exceed 10,000 cells per milliliter in western areas of the Peconic Estuary , according to monitoring by The Gobler Laboratory at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Densities exceeding 1,000 cells per milliliter were also present in Flanders Bay and tributaries, including Meetinghouse Creek in Aquebogue.

“The rust tide is expected to spread in the coming days and weeks and typically extends into the fall or until water temperatures drop below 60 degrees,” said Dr. Christoper Gobler, lead researcher at the lab.

Last fall, bay scallops in the Peconic Estuary declined “tenfold” in some regions during the rust tide, causing disappointment among baymen and scallop lovers alike, according to a Stony Brook release.

The impacts of this year’s bloom will likely depend on its duration, according to research officials.

Researchers have discovered the organism waits at the bottom of the bay emerging each summer to start a new bloom. At the end of the bloom, it turns into a cyst or seed, settling back on the bay’s bottom. This allows for the blooms to return each year, researchers said.

Researchers also found “nitrogen loading makes these blooms more intense and more toxic. As nitrogen loading has increased into our bays, these events have intensified,” Mr. Gobler said.

Experiments conducted in the Gobler Lab have demonstrated that this algae can kill fish in a matter of hours and shellfish over the course of a few days, according to the release.

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06/25/13 3:00pm
06/25/2013 3:00 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | DEC officials announce funding to repair a canoe launch in Riverhead.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is designating millions of dollars in funding toward improving recreation areas and the North Fork is expected to reap the benefits.

In recognition of Great Outdoors Month New York, state Department of Environmental Conservation regional director Peter Scully announced $950,000 for outdoor recreation projects in Riverhead and Southold.

The funding derives from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Works II program and the Environmental Protection Fund, which provides money for expanding and improving access for recreational activities on public lands.

Of the total funding, $750,000 will be used to repair the Peconic River dam and a canoe launch off of Edwards Avenue in Riverhead.

The remaining $200,000 will go toward designing a boat ramp at a public waterway access on Peconic Bay near the site of the former Old Barge restaurant just off Route 25 in Southold.

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06/03/13 12:25pm
06/03/2013 12:25 PM
Suffolk Sheriff's new marine boat

COURTESY PHOTO | Marine 41 will be available to all East End marine units.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office has purchased a custom-made, 41-foot emergency response ship equipped with high-tech features like side-scan sonar and forward-looking infrared cameras, allowing it to spy on bay and ocean bottoms and navigate through the night with the utmost confidence.

The vessel will be used by members of the East End Marine Task Force, established in 2007 to help coordinate marine units from across the East End. The task force includes sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Coast Guard officers. Marine law enforcement units from each of the five East End towns also signed a memorandum of agreement to share and standardize equipment and training.

The task force agreement allows participating personnel to cross town borders when needed, which “increases safety and keeps costs down,” said sheriff’s office’s marine unit commanding officer, Sgt. John Andrejack.

Sgt. Andrejack is tasked with overseeing and managing the new boat.

“I don’t know of any other vessels like this,” Sgt. Andrejack said.

The ship, Marine 41, is a C.B.R.N.E.-response vessel -— which stands for Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and Explosive — outfitted with radar, chart plotters and a dual-screen GPS. The boat is designed to be able to respond to a nuclear, chemical or biological attack or accident.

It’s powered by twin Cummins Diesel motors and does not have propellers. The boat is instead propelled by Hamilton Jets, which allow it to operate in very shallow water (less than three feet), officials said. The cabin air is always purified, with no outside air circulated inside. If the boat enters an area with hazardous smoke and fumes, there is constant clean air in the cabin, official said.

Marine 41 has firefighting capability with a water pump that can move 2,000 gallons a minute. It also comes with a 500-pound Davit winch to lift and recover things from the water.

“This is the most well-equipped response boat in the area,” said Sgt. Andrejack, who was involved in acquiring, designing and equipping the craft.

Officers on the task force from all different towns will crew the ship, he said.

“This vessel is crewed by multiple agencies, used for whatever town may need it for any large event,” Sgt. Andrejack explained, giveing the annual Maritime Festival in Greenport as one example. “It can be transferred from town to town when and where it is needed.”

The sheriff’s office was able to make the purchase using a $1.2 million Federal Emergency Management Agency Port Security Grant, officials said. The grant also allowed for the purchase of personal radiation protectors and 40 strong exposure suits that can be used to protect officers during severe storms or harsh winter weather, both to be distributed to members of the East End Marine Task Force.

The boat also came with a survival raft, EMT equipment and is able accommodate a patient on a backboard.

Marine 41 and all the on-board equipment cost $650,000.

A full-scale training exercise was recently performed on the boat. That simulation exercise, based on an actual recent event, involved a fishing vessel had dredged up hazardous material that the crew had to “decontaminate” before towing the vessel back to shore.

“A vessel of this capability was lacking in the region and the citizens of the East End deserve the capability and protection this asset provides,” Sgt. Andrejack said.

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