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Dec 28, 2018 2:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Trustees To Host Public Review Of County Aquaculture Leases

Dec 31, 2018 12:40 PM

The East Hampton Town Trustees will host a public discussion of the Suffolk County Aquaculture Lease Program on Wednesday, January 9, part of the county’s 10-year review of the program. The forum will begin at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

The county has leased about 500 acres of bottomlands in the Peconics and in Gardiners Bay to individuals or entities who may use the lease area to anchor floating shellfish cages for the cultivation of shellfish, primarily oysters. Applicants must show that they are qualified to create and run a responsible growing operation, and all applications are reviewed and awarded by a county advisory committee.

When the program was created in 2018, New York State ceded control of nearly 100,000 acres of bay bottoms between the two forks to the county to promote aquaculture leasing as an economic boost to the traditional baymen’s industry, which has been hurt by steep declines in wild shellfish stocks in the last three decades.

The county designated more than 29,000 acres in Great Peconic, Little Peconic and Gardiners bays as eligible for aquaculture leases but capped the total acreage that would be leased during the first 10 years at 600 acres.

The program’s original charter requires a full review, including whether to expand the number of leases that will be issued, before the program is due for reauthorization in 2020. The county is also considering whether to allow the cultivation of edible seaweeds in the lease areas.

The program has been widely applauded but hit a snag in Gardiners Bay last year when the Devon Yacht Club sued to halt the leasing of two new plots just offshore of the posh club’s boat basin.

The lawsuit claims that the county failed to consider the impact that shellfish growing—known as aquaculture, or mariculture—in the region would have on recreational activities like sailing, and that a half-dozen new leases awarded to would-be shellfish farmers last summer should be annulled.

The county has mapped out more than 20 lease areas in the corner of Gardiners Bay known as Napeague Bay, where the Devon Yacht Club is. Each lease site comprises 10 acres of bay bottom and is surrounded by a buffer area that makes the total area linked to each lease 20 acres. Just two of the sites are already actively in use and are not challenged by the yacht club’s lawsuit.

The suit is pending.

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The state ceded the lands to the County by state law in 2004. The county adopted the resolution creating the program in December 2008. The program was not created in 2018.
By aruckdes (1), Hauppauge on Dec 31, 18 9:18 AM