Engineered Inlet with Storm Gate at Gilgo State Park A sad fact is the Great South Bay is still very ill. New York …
Many of us (about 35 based on RSVPs, seeing people there) attended "Sandy's Silver Lining," A Public Forum on The Breach, held at Bellport Middle School on the 21st between 9:30 - 12:00. The response was strong even though it was the last shopping weekend before Christmas; this issue is still front and center for us, and so about 200 showed in total. Thomas Bruckner should be singled out as having done a marvelous job assembling the panel, and in the presentation, with informative segues between speakers where he showed pics and video from his some 30 trips to the breach / inlet. He's a natural MC. The sound system was out of whack, but we will get this fixed for next time, for yes, there will be next times, as what Commissioner Soller had to say make clear.
This report, their tenth, available here Inlet_Report_10 in its entirety, discusses both how the breach has evolved and mutated, while remaining stable over all in terms of its flow and its influence on water quality in The Great South Bay. Bellport Bay -- and not much more than that -- continues to benefit greatly from the influx of fresh clean ocean water and the outflow of nitrogen rich, oxygen depleted water.
SCERP -- The Southampton Coastal and Estuarine Research Project -- has just come out with their latest report. Swimmers Rejoice! Water clarity is now such that we can see deeper than 4 feet in the Eastern Bay, which means it is legal and permissible to swim in the bay once more according to New York State guidelines. In fact, we've gone from 3'4" to 4'6" this year, a 35% increase.
As we began to learn about the breach, how barrier beaches in fact behave and evolve, and began to see how it was actually a lifeline for an otherwise dying bay, saw that it was flushing Bellport Bay especially, and bringing back the bay we knew, we began to use the term 'breach' ironically. "Life's a Breach!" reads one bumper sticker. Against all the hysteria leveled at it, people posted 'The Breach ate my baby!,' or 'The Breach cheats at golf,' or 'The Breach stole my woman!" We will be having a Breach Party this Saturday in fact, keeping with the spirit of this.
It has become the reflexive habit of news organizations to frame every news item as a conflict, a controversy. Without that, there is no story. You could be in a lecture hall for two and a half hours, listen to a panel, then have public statements from a crowd of 600. The one person who stands up to say that the breach must be closed because his apartment complex was flooded this winter is the person how gets surrounded by microphones. That's exactly what happened in March at a Town Hall in Bellport about The New Inlet. Nearly unanimous support after 2 1/2 hours, but I had reporters actually say to me, 'where's the conflict/story in that?' When we wade into public policy debates, where the science most matters, it is truly corrosive to science and civic life to see this happen.
Michael Busch of Bellport takes News12 out to The Old Inlet/Breach to show them how much healthier that part of the bay has become since Sandy created it six months ago -- fluke, sea turtles, seal, osprey, clear waters.
Knowing now the task at hand, we have no choice but to take it on. To say this problem is too big is to say Long Island has no future. Without clean water, we have no bays, rivers, and ponds worth having. Without clean water, what do we drink, bathe in, or wash with? In the end, it is up to us to act responsibly on the conclusions of SCERP's research. The very first step we can take in that is to make sure everyone on Long Island is familiar with their work and their conclusions. Tell your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers. We must move from knowledge to awareness to action if we are to preserve Long Island and its waters for future generations. Make no mistake - this problem will cost billions to fix. Eco friendly septic tanks and toilets would need to be deployed throughout Nassau and Suffolk. Sewage treatment plants would need to be modernized and rebuilt. With the total value of Long Island real estate easily in the hundreds of billions of dollars, one would think the infrastructure investment would be worth it.
The brown tide bloom in The Great South Bay is massive and its results will be devastating. The New Inlet will mitigate the damage somewhat -- we should be happy it wasn't closed after Sandy! -- but the real problem continues to be the 500,000 septic tanks in Nassau and Suffolk. Scientists are now speculating that the Babylon area was hit hard by this brown tide because the flow of polluted groundwater running into the bay was greatest there. While some of Babylon is on sewers, much of Babylon isn't. After an historically wet June -- we had twice the rain we usually did -- the ground water, now supersaturated, flowed towards the bay, drawing septic tank water with it. Babylon's rivers and streams contribute 30% of the ground water pollution into the bay, as measured by nitrogen content, as it is. A month of flooding rains, predictably, exacerbated the problem.
The Great South Bay must be preserved for future generations.
I captured this moment this morning while helping introduce the STGSB group to a really awesome bunch of Long Island educators seen here with their SCOPE facilitator/STGSB member Vincent & Fire Island Lighthouse volunteer Bob. We're enjoying a fantastic view of the GSB during the lighthouse tour. Worth doing now for the discounted rate ($3) but if you want the "big climb/amazing view" tour (still a bargain at $7), wait till August 1st when construction's done.