Invests $7.25 Million in Public Hatcheries Across Long Island and $3.15 Million to Obtain Adult Shellfish
Shellfish Restoration Council to Direct Efforts and Coordinate Training
Investments Will Create Jobs Across Long Island
DEC to Establish One-Stop Shop to Expedite Permitting for Shellfish Cultivation
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $10.4 million effort to improve Long Island’s water quality and bolster the economies and resiliency of coastal communities by restoring native shellfish populations to coastal waters. To restore shellfish, New York State is establishing five new sanctuary sites in Suffolk and Nassau counties to transplant seeded clams and oysters and expanding public shellfish hatcheries in the two counties through a dedicated grant program. More information is available .
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you to the Halesite Fire Department and all their hospitality today. Thank you to all who are here. Before I begin, a special note, that we had sent the New York National Guard, 106th Rescue Wing out of West Hampton to go down and help Texas on Hurricane Harvey. 546 rescues they did, is that amazing? Let’s give them a round of applause. And the Halesite Fire Department collected over $80,000 in donations for Texas, so let’s give them a round of applause. You know it is amazing to me still, when things are at their worst, people are at their best. We saw it with Hurricane Sandy. The nation is now seeing it with what’s going on in Texas. Everybody rallies to do whatever they can to help Americans and New Yorkers in need and I’m proud of the way this state responded. We say a prayer that we don’t have the same situation now in Florida and Puerto Rico because there’s another storm and anyone who doesn’t see a new pattern of extreme weather, I think is in a state of denial,you know. We have hurricanes, we have floods, we have all sorts of situations in the state that we’ve never had before.
I want to thank my colleagues in the legislature. We’re about to announce an exciting program and nothing happens without the legislature and the legislature will tell you that. So, let’s give them a round of applause. I also want to thank Stony Brook University and Cornell, which have been great partners to us. They are smart, they are on it, and let’s give them a round of applause and thank them. And my two colleagues – two great County Executives, whose leadership has really made a difference, Steve Bellone and Ed Mangano. To a great DEC Commissioner, he gives me the credit, but we do have the best environmental program in the country and its because we have the best Environmental Commissioner in the country, Basil Seggos. Let’s give him a round of applause.
The environment is becoming more and more of an issue. Why? Because the problems in the environment are a function of evolution and they’ve been getting worse incrementally. We didn’t do anything for a long time, we didn’t pay attention, and now the bill is coming due. It’s like when you get as old as I am and you go to the doctor and they start to talk to you about cholesterol and the problem you have with cholesterol. It’s not what you did this week or last week, it was an entire lifetime of bad habits that get you to this point. The same is true with the environment. It’s 50 years of bad habits. It’s 50 years of not even understanding what we were doing. We have these great manufacturing plants and they were doing all sorts of great manufacturing, using all sorts of chemicals and dumping it in the ground. And we never said to ourselves, “Well what happens when it goes into the sewer system? What happens when it goes into the ground? The thought was it’s gone, disappeared, never happened. That’s not the case. Nothing is ever gone. Nothing ever really flushed, you know? In some ways, the earth is like a sponge and you pour fluids into it and yeah they pour out the other side, but that sponge holds a lot of the chemicals and a lot of the contaminants. And they built up year after year after year after year, and you have all sorts of chemicals that now combine with each other in ways that we never even imagined. And it becomes a problem in water pollution. You see it in the coastline and we’re going to be primarily talking about the coastline today. But you see it in the ground water with really frightening results. This is not just New York; this is all across the country. We’re just starting to test groundwater for chemicals that nobody even thought to test for. We have situations in upstate New York where the groundwater is polluted from a manufacturing plant that no longer exists and hasn’t existed in decades. But, what they left behind is still in that groundwater. Some of these chemicals you can filter out with a very expensive process. Some chemicals you can’t get out of the groundwater, period. Once they’re there, we don’t even have the technology to fill them out. In many ways, we now have a new recognition of a problem that we caused over many, many years and we are trying to now remediate the damage from decades past. We have to be aggressive about it. There’s no time to waste. You’re talking about a matter of health on Long Island, you’re talking about a fundamental economic driver which is the use of the water and we’re aggressive about it because you have to be. Long Island especially, what makes Long Island, Long Island? Part of the attraction is that it is an island. It has beautiful coastline, bays, harbors, you see it in Huntington, you can live, work and play on Long Island. Right?
My sister loves to say, “When you live on Long Island you never have to take a vacation, because you’re on Long Island!” It’s true. That has been the essence of one of the attractions for Long Island. But over the years, Long Island, like every other part of the state and every other part of the nation, the pollution has been getting worse and worse and growing and adding up. We know the sources of the pollution, especially on Long Island. We’re using fertilizers, they wind up in the water, we have an inadequate sewer system. Septic systems made sense at one time, not when you have a concentration of septic systems that we have now.
In Long Island, 60 years ago, it was fine. Why? Because you didn’t have the density that you now have. But the density of septic that we have has saturated the ground soil. Sewage treatment, wastewater treatment, we took for granted. Not anymore. 500,000 septic systems in Suffolk County alone have to be addressed. These are very expensive and complicated issues, to put in a sewer infrastructure where it doesn’t exist. It’s especially bad on Long Island because of the geology of Long Island. It’s a bar of sand, basically. The sand is porous and everything pours right through the sand and then sits in one basic aquifer. All these years, all those chemicals end up in the aquifer, the aquifer makes it to the coastline, but the aquifer is also the source of the drinking water.
Now, you’d have to be blind to deny the evidence of the change. You see it everywhere. The so-called brown tide, which appeared out of nowhere in the ’80s, nobody even understood what it was, but it’s only getting worse and worse. Upstate New York, we have in lakes, toxic algae blooms with a toxic bacteria in the algae. It’s not just in Long Island. We’ve had the same situation here. We tend to think of it on the coastline, but again, it is in the drinking water and this is going to be the crisis of the next decade – mark my words. We’ll get more sophisticated in the testing of groundwater, you can’t even find out from the federal EPA now what chemicals should be tested for and you can’t find out from the EPA what concentrations of those chemicals are dangerous. We will have more and more research and then we’ll get into the question of how do you filter the groundwater, and that’s going to be very complicated.
But no doubt, protecting our natural assets and these investments are the core mission for Long Island. We’ve been very aggressive. I’m proud to say we’ve been more aggressive than any state administration in history. I’m humble enough to say we’re not going to do it alone, we’re going to do it with partnerships and that’s exactly what this is all about.
On the state side, we’ve had a full agenda for the past several years. 2015, $5 million for the Nitrogen Action Plan. We launched the first Ocean Action Plan, 10 years, $400 million for water infrastructure. The highest amount for the Environmental Protection Fund in history, and we’re proud if it. $40 million to start to build new sewage treatment plants in Smithtown Kings Park. $3 million for Suffolk County and Stony Brook to develop advanced septic treatment technologies so the septic systems we do have work better, which is very important. It’s unrealistic to say, in our lifetime we’re going to replace all the septic. I’d love to be able to say we’re going to do that, I think it’s cost prohibitive, and it is practically from a functional point of view, prohibitive. Can we make those septic systems work better? That’s a very real question. $900,000 for the estuary reserve. We’re in partnership with Steve Bellone. That’s why he’s smiling, because he is getting a lot of money. That’s when Steve smiles. If you want to see Steve Bellone smile, give him a big check. $300 million dollars in partnership with Suffolk County to connect homes to the sewer systems. Same thing with Ed Mangano. We’re going to give him financial assistance to address the Bay Park Treatment Facility, which has been a problem for years. It is polluting the surrounding waters and we are looking for ways to use the Cedar Creek ocean outfall.
In this year’s budget, we did something special and I applaud the legislature, especially Steve Englebright, who is here. The largest amount of money ever invested in clean water, $2.5 billion for a Clean Water Infrastructure Act. It is a landmark investment and again, it is targeted for clean drinking water because I think that is the next crisis. We are also doing everything we can visive the federal government. They are moving ahead with their dumping plan right at the mouth of the Sound, which makes absolutely no sense why you would dump dredged material in the Sound. We said if they approved it we would sue them. They approved it and we’re suing them. So, aggressive is good, and aggressive and creative at the same time is also better. And we are going to get creative in this partnership, and we are going to enlist the help of mother nature with a little boost from the State.
We’ve done a lot of research, especially through Stony Brook, on the use of clams and oysters as natural filters. Mother Nature knew what she was talking about. That’s exactly right, let’s give them a round of applause. Mother Nature had a plan and Mother Nature had a system. Our problem is, we messed with Mother Nature’s system, but clams and oysters were natural filters. We now have a problem that the water is so polluted that it has decimated that population, but they were natural filtration equipment, if you will. We’ve done a lot of research to determine how to restore the clam and oyster population and how to restore it in a way that they survive and they flourish. We know it works and we know what doesn’t work. We know that if you place them in appropriate concentrations, they can help filter pollutants and nutrients that cause toxic algae blooms. We know that they process the algae, they retain the nutrients, the actually remove nitrogen from the water – clams, about 25 gallons per day, oysters, about 50 gallons of water per day. We’ve learned that placing more mature shellfish has a higher percentage of success because they are more resilient. In the past, juvenile shellfish have been placed and they didn’t survive. The more mature shellfish have a higher survival rate. You need density, it is required for reproduction. Apparently, clams don’t move around a lot during the reproductive process. I’ll leave it at that. So, you need a high level of density for the reproductive process to work. Mature shellfish can survive in marginal waters. In the past, they have been placed in heavy areas of pollution and they don’t survive in heavy areas of pollution. You can place them in a marginal area next to an area of heavy pollution and they will survive there, clean that water and that then dissipates the problem in the heavily polluted areas.
Rhode Island tried a very big experiment in 2005. They made many of the mistakes that we just spoke about and we are taking those lessons into consideration. But, we want to use this resource and we want to use this aggressively. We think it has great potential as a natural resource. We have to bring it to scale. So we are going to launch the most aggressive program in the United States of America to restore clams and oysters. We’re going to do it here on Long Island because we think it can make a difference to the environment and we think it can make a difference to the economy. We’re going to announce $5.2 million shellfish restoration project all across Long Island. This is a product of working with the towns, the villages, the counties, academic universities, Cornell, Stony Brook, putting everybody together at the same table and coming up with a cooperative plan. And I want to thank, right now, not just the county executives, but the supervisors who are here, our partners in local government, because everyone pitched in to make this work. Let’s give them a round of applause.
And it’s going to work this way. We’re going to establish five new shellfish sanctuary sites at areas that have been strategically identified by Stony Brook and Cornell and areas that we know, historically, have problems with the quality of the water: Huntington Harbor, Hempstead Bay, South Oyster Bay, Bellport Bay, Shinnecock Bay. We’re selecting those locations that we believe we can improve the water quality and the shellfish can survive and multiply. We’re going to be planting mature shellfish at a rate that will allow reproduction and water filtration. We’ve custom designed the number of shellfish for each particular area. So you can see, South Oyster Bay – 26 million. The variance is based on the variables and the conditions of that water in that area. The placement will produce enough shellfish to filter the water at these sites every three days, which would be remarkable.
Now, we need to produce a significant number of oysters and clams – 179 million. We’re going to invest $7.2 million in public hatcheries across Long Island to do that. Cornell Cooperative in Suffolk County will receive $5 million to expand their shellfish hatchery and plant the shellfish at the sanctuary sites. We want to thank Cornell and Suffolk for taking on that obligation.
We’ll also spend $2 million to invest in existing public hatcheries to increase their capacities. The town of Brookhaven has stepped up and we want to thank them very much. South Hampton, East Hampton, Hempstead, Islip, and the Shinnecock Nation will all increase their public hatchery capacity. They will receive grants of approximately $400,000 each and they’ll be growing and providing the population that we’re actually going to be placing. So let’s give them a round of applause and thank them.
The investment will support the entire lifecycle of the shellfish from the beginning where they spend their first few months in the hatcheries. They’re then placed in floating nurseries, again to make them more mature. We’ll have 69 floating nurseries aroundLong Island. They’ll be monitored by Cornell. The shellfish will become mature in those nurseries. They’ll then be placed thereafter in the open water sites that we discussed.
We’re spending $3 million to jumpstart the program and obtaining 28 million adult shellfish from local distributers and hatcheries, harvesters that are doing it now. So rather than waiting to grow the first crop, we’re actually going to purchase the first crop so we can start the program even sooner. And again, they’ll be placed in the five sites. We’re going to put together a Shellfish Restoration Council, monitor the results, find out what we’re learning, if we have to tweak the program as we go along, we will. As I said, this is the most ambitious program ever done in the country. We expect to learn things as we go along. So, we’ll be studying, we’ll be monitoring, and we’ll make adjustments as we go along. SUNY Stony Brook and Cornell Extension will be leading that effort for us. They’ll monitor the sanctuaries and make sure we’re having the maximum impact.
These sanctuaries will be clearly marked with special buoys. There’s obviously commercial harvesting. This is not a place where you should commercially harvest. There will be special buoys. They will be enforced. There will be strict penalties. The DEC will be enforcing these sanctuary sites as well as local law enforcement will enforce these sanctuary sites, and we thank them for that. But these will be sites of high concentrations of clams and oysters that are there for a particular purpose. Any poaching on these sites is a serious offense and we’re going to take it seriously.
Now, we know the permitting process for hatcheries has been slightly cumbersome, some would say. Some would say that there’s a fair amount of bureaucracy involved. The Commissioner of DEC would not say that. But some would say that. But the Commissioner of DEC would say, to the extent there was any bureaucracy, it’s going to be streamlined and any application will be turned around within 30 days. It is lightning speed for those familiar with the process because we want to get these hatcheries functioning. We want to get it up and running.
So that’s the plan. Five Shellfish Sanctuaries, we’ll be monitoring it. If it works as well as we hope, we’ll be expanding it to other locations around the Island. Seven million dollars to expand the public hatcheries that now exist. Three million dollars to jumpstart the program with adult shellfish. A Shellfish Restoration Council that will be studying the results, advising the program as we go along, and DEC will be moving all the applications and doing the enforcement to make sure it all works.
New York knows what some of the other states know, but as you heard from the Commissioner, what the Federal Government has failed to prioritize, which is protecting the environment – and we do it very seriously in New York and we’re proud of it. Left unaddressed, the situation only gets worse. Time is not on our side. Every day, more fertilizer goes on the lawn, more nitrogen is going into the water, more chemicals are winding up in the aquifer. Every day. And that’s why we have to be as aggressive and creative as we are. In many ways, we are just trying to restore the planet the way we had it, right? Restore the system to the balance that mother nature provided and that we have since distorted. We’re trying to undo the damage that we did and get it back to a place of balance. Because Mother Nature did know better. The shellfish, the clams and oysters were an essential, especially in this area of the country. It’s what made Long Island “Long Island.” It was one of the great attractions. Oyster Bay – the name, that was given by the Dutch. Saladino says that he named it, but he really didn’t. It was actually done by the Dutch. The great South Bay was the hard clam factory. I mean, we were producing it for the entire country at one time. And now 99 percent of it is gone. Just think about that. Just think about what that means. That’s why the South Bay was clean. That’s why it worked. We had all that natural filtration. That’s all wiped out, it’s all gone. The industry is gone, the people who did that are gone, and then the water is now getting dirtier and dirtier as part of it.
Learn from our mistakes. We all make them. We are fallible. We are human beings. As a society we make collective mistakes. We have abused the environment. Sometimes we did it unknowingly, sometimes we did it knowingly. But we have to remediate the damage that we did. And we’re doing that all across the state. We have acid rain in some of the most beautiful lakes in the Adirondacks that are in the middle of forests, that are pristine. But you have acid rain from the clouds. All the manufacturing that was done in upstate New York left a stain literally from the industrial era that’s now in the aquifer. Here on Long Island, Grumman was a great economic engine. And we now have the residue of Grumman in the, what’s called the Grumman plume. So that’s what we’re trying to make up for.
Because at the end of the day it’s very simple. Someone put us here, some of us believe God put us here, for a limited period of time on this earth. And it goes very, very fast. And we have one simple obligation – to leave this place better than we found it. To leave our children a home that is better than we found it. The Native Americans have a beautiful proverb, that says we did not inherit the earth from our parents, we are borrowing it from our children. We are stewards of the environment. And we have to make sure at the end of our day, when our day is done, and our children inherit this place, inherit Long Island, they inherit a Long Island that is cleaner and better and safer than the Long Island that we had. This is a big step in the right direction.
I thank you all for coming. I’m excited about it. I think this is going to be a national precedent. I think we’ll learn along the way. But it is the right direction. And I want to thank all our partners in local government, in the academic institutions, and especially the two County Executives without whose help this wouldn’t happen. And you’re now going to hear from County Executive Steve Bellone and County Executive Ed Mangano and you’ll understand why they’re smiling.
Thank you and God bless you.