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Town to use drones to study Orient waterways

The Southold Town shellfish advisory committee plans to use drone videography next week to conduct dye-flow studies over Oysterponds Creek, Orient Harbor and Narrow River in Orient.

The test will take place Monday, May 7, according to John Bredemeyer, the town Trustees’ liaison to the committee, with a rain date of May 8. 

Non-toxic dye will be cast into the water bodies and tracked by a drone at different tides, showing the movement of the water, and highlighting where any contaminants originate, how they spread and how quickly they travel, Mr. Bredemeyer explained. If bacterial sources are detected, potential corrective measures may be sought, he said. 
There have been committee discussions about more accurately identifying sources  of water quality threats near state Department of Environmental Conservation monitoring points, he said. 

In the wee hours of Monday morning, a bright lime green will be dispersed in Oysterponds Creek, with red at its entrance, Mr. Bredemeyer said. A drone will record where the dye is at different times throughout the morning as tides flow into Orient Harbor. 

Later that day, likely between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., dye will be tracked in Narrow River, according to Mr. Bredemeyer. 

The Trustees and shellfish advisory committee members are concerned that the potential expansion of Fresh & Co. to include larger scale animal agriculture could affect that water body, which leads into Hallocks Bay, where shellfishing is prevalent. The plan is to show whether largely undiluted coliform bacteria from animal wastes could reach the nearest DEC monitoring station in one or two tidal cycles, Mr. Bredemeyer said. 

Orient residents packed Southold Town Hall during a Planning Board hearing in September, strongly opposing the Fresh & Co. application to build a 9,000-square-foot barn on 34.5 acres at the corner of Route 25 and Narrow River Road. Some speakers cited concern that animal waste would bring harmful effects to the nearby wetlands. 

“We want to produce information and we’re prepared to work with Fresh & Co. because we don’t want two of our most time-honored traditions in the town — agriculture and shellfishing — directly impeding one or the other,” Mr. Bredemeyer said Tuesday. 

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Photo caption: Oysterponds Creek. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)