Shellfish Hatchery Plan Gains Momentum

The East Hampton Town Board was briefed during its March 5 work session on the progress being made toward consolidating the town’s shellfish hatchery and nursery operation into one facility. The new facility would be at the end of Gann Road in Springs, just off of Three Mile Harbor, near its inlet from Gardiners Bay. The town already has a shellfish nursery in the area.

The property at 36 Gann Road was purchased by the town last year using community preservation funds of $2.1 million.

Town board member David Lys has been shepherding the consolidation effort, and introduced a PowerPoint presentation conducted by John Dunne. Dunne is the director of aquaculture for the town, and is a bay management specialist.

A swimming pool on the 36 Gann Road property will be removed, replaced by the new hatchery, and the house on the site would be converted to an office for the facility. Solar panels would be added to power the operation.

Currently, the operation takes place at three different sites. Dunne reviewed the history of the program in the town.

The oldest of the three sites currently being used for the operation was formerly a U.S. Navy warehouse on Fort Pond Bay, west of the Montauk train station. The vast building is a relic from World War II, when the navy would test torpedoes in Fort Pond Bay. It was obtained by the town in 1986, Dunne told the board, with New York State providing seed money for a shellfish hatchery and nursery. The first crop of shellfish, in this case clams, was spawned in 1991.

The problem the town faced is that the ocean waters of Fort Pond Bay are not ideal for a shellfish nursery. The water is too cold, Dunne said, and there is a sharp drop off in depth to the bottom of the bay from the shore. In 1998, the nursery was moved to the current Gann Road site. A third site for shellfish grow-out is on Napeague Bay. The distance between the locations is currently a major hurdle for the survival of the shellfish. During the half-hour journey, man hours are lost. Worse, almost 50 percent of the shellfish can perish.

The benefits of shellfish cannot be understated, the board was told. Shellfish of all varieties naturally filter the waters they are in. A single oyster can filter 50 gallons of sea water a day. They remove sediment and nitrogen from the water.

Lys told the board that the new facility would be called GREEN, an acronym for Gann Road Environmental Education and Nature Center. Local schools would be encouraged to participate in various programs and classes.

The town has received a $400,000 grant from the state’s Empire State Development fund for the its shellfish initiative, the board was told. The total project will cost $2.65 million. The town has applied a grant from the state to offset most of the cost, with the town putting up 10 percent of the total.

Overall, board members were supportive of the project, though Councilman Jeffrey Bragman did raise one concern, asking if neighbors in houses by the site were aware that a 5000-square-foot structure on a 1.1-acre sized property was coming. Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc responded that that concern was premature since the building has not even been designed yet.

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