Frustrated with years of trying to get the State Department of Environmental Conservation to reopen waterways long closed to shellfishing on the North Fork, members of Southold Town’s shellfish advisory committee say only one solution to their problem remains.
Local state legislators must put pressure on the DEC to make sweeping changes to its shellfish monitoring program, they told members of the Town Board at its work session Tuesday.
“We need real programatic changes at the state level,” said Southold Town engineer Michael Collins. “If we do this right, we have the potential to bring this resource back, for people to make a living on our bays again, which is our right.”
While stormwater runoff is being blamed on shellfishing closures throughout the region, Mr. Collins and committee chairman and town trustee John Bredemeyer said the real issue is a lack of resources in the only DEC lab certified to conduct water testing on Long Island.
Hundreds of acres of town waterways remain closed to shellfishing despite many areas being untested as the “underfunded” lab is unable to fulfill requests, Mr. Collins said.
“The lab is so strapped for resources, we’ve been effectively locked out,” he said.
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, who appeared before the board with Mr. Collins and Mr. Bredemeyer during their presentation, said it’s an important issue that “has been festering for too long.” He said the county has a great stake in the issue considering its role in economic development and the impact closed waterways have on local fishermen.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he plans to organize a meeting of stakeholders and that a good first step would be to get the local baymen’s associations on board with any lobbying efforts.
“We have to get the attention of our state legislators because they can move DEC and we cannot,” Mr. Russell said.