Wanted: new home for FLUPSY
Bellport Village may not welcome a floating upweller system after all.
Location scouting along Bellport Bay recently wrapped up by reps from Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, with little luck.
“In the marina, there was a lack of suitable space,” said CCE marina program director Christopher Pickerell, “and some issues with depth and exposure to potentially heavy winds.”
The FLUPSY is a 12-by-13 shellfish nursery raft that, with help from a pump, flushes in nutrient-rich water to promote growth in clams and oysters. Once ‘seeds’ from the FLUPSY mature into spat, they can be seeded directly into the bay.
The devices require some maintenance, but also need at least three feet of water depth and adequate protection from fetch, something not offered in the waters surrounding the Bellport marina. “We suggested the end of the pier, where the ferry lands,” said Bellport Village mayor Ray Fell earlier this week. “But [the FLUPSY] is 13 feet wide and the dock is only 5 feet, so it just wouldn’t work. Cornell was very, very understanding.”
Stakeholders from both Cornell and Friends of Bellport Bay, who have volunteered to maintain the system, aren’t giving up hope. The search for the FLUPSY home has moved east to consider locations in Brookhaven hamlet.
FoBB director Thomas Schultz reached out to Squassux Landing, but marine scientists concluded the location would not be sufficient. Tom Williams, vice president of the Post Morrow Foundation, said the Fireplace Marina along Beaver Dam Creek could be a suitable location. But the creek, Schultz said, is brackish and thereby subject to salinity bounce after heavy rains. “Salinity levels drop along the entire north edge of Bellport Bay after rain events,” Schultz said.
On Monday, once heavy downpours and thunderstorms gave way to afternoon sun, Schultz was down at the Fireplace Marina taking water samples. “We’ll sample salinity levels over the next few days to get a better understanding [of the bounce phenomenon],” Schultz said as he collected water into a clean, vacuum-sealed spaghetti sauce jar. He tested at three locations, including a spot along the bay, at the marina and further north along the creek under the bridge on Beaver Dam Road.
Pickerell said Tuesday that he has lingering concerns over salinity. “Any one factor can kick [a location] out of contention,” he said. Good FLUPSY locations must strike a balance between salinity and other water-quality factors, depth and protection.
It was not immediately clear what salinity tests from Monday revealed. CCE plans to visit the site and will ultimately make a final determination.
While public sites are being considered first, Pickerell said the group is open to working with private entities willing to host the FLUPSY.
In September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $10.4 million shellfish restoration effort intended to improve Long Island water quality and bolster coastline resiliency. The state planned five new sanctuary sites in Suffolk and Nassau counties to expand public shellfish hatcheries, including Bellport Bay. The FLUPSY would initially be used to grow clams, Pickerell said.
Even if a location can’t be found, Bellport Bay will still be used as a sanctuary. “We’ll still be putting clams and oysters there no matter what,” Pickerell said, noting a partnership with the Town of Brookhaven. The sanctuary site would be closed off to shellfishing, which Pickerell said is a unique distinction. “We will be focusing on plantings in closed waters, which has not been allowed by the NYSDEC up until now,” he said in an email Tuesday.
Schultz remains hopeful that the FLUPSY will find a home. “I’m crossing my fingers, eyes and toes hoping that the water quality will be up to par,” he said.
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