Public input sought on Goldsmith wetland

Next Wednesday afternoon, community members will have a chance to weigh in with suggestions for a new project to clean up Goldsmith Inlet in Peconic.

The inlet off Long Island Sound has been plagued for years with poor water quality, due in part to its clogged entrance and to drainage from neighboring Autumn Pond, which connects to the inlet through an outflow pipe. Autumn Pond’s water quality has been affected by the surrounding residential development.

The area surrounding that outflow pipe is the focus of a new project, funded through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Service, to filter the water from the pond through a man-made wetland system before it enters the inlet.

The system, known as WATERWASH, was designed by Goldsmith Inlet neighbor Lillian Ball, who came up with a similar system for the headwaters of Mattituck Inlet several years ago. It would be created on a .2-acre parcel owned by Southold Town on Mill Lane, across from Second Avenue.

Ms. Ball will join Group for the East End vice president Aaron Virgin at the group’s headquarters on Route 25 in Southold next Wednesday, Feb. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. for a public session to discuss the project.

“We want people to become aware that this is a sick water body and we’re trying to fix it,” Mr. Virgin said this week. “We’re looking for boots on the ground for phragmites cuttings, putting in native plants. We want to have people engaged, to come to outreach sessions.”

Mr. Virgin said Group for the East End is looking for help with planning bird walks and a kayak tour in the summer and designing interpretive signs for the project site.

“We’re also looking for people to give us their historical input. What was it like 30, 40, 50 years ago?” he added.

The initial planning phase of the project is supported by a $60,000 grant from the Fish and Wildlife Service. Mr. Virgin said the creation of the wetlands will cost a little less than $200,000, and that volunteer work can count as a match toward grants for the project. The project’s designers will be applying for another grant from the Fish and Wildlife Service for implementation of the project in 2012.

Mr. Virgin said a large stand of phragmites, invasive reeds that have choked many East End shorelines, was likely planted by neighbors in order to keep the shoreline from eroding. He said that those neighbors’ concerns are welcome at the forum, at which he and Ms. Ball will discuss native plants that are equally effective at curbing erosion.

He said the group will not use any chemicals to remove the phragmites, but will probably dig them out using a backhoe and hand shovels.

In its place, they plan to use marshmallow, salt-tolerant wetland plants, seaside goldenrod and native sedges.

“We want it to stay a special place,” said Mr. Virgin.

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