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Apr 8, 2009 1:32 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Oyster growing drawing complaints from neighbors

Apr 8, 2009 1:32 PM

Waterfront homeowners around Cold Spring Pond are complaining that a Southampton Town Trustees-sponsored program allowing a handful of baymen to grow oysters in submerged cages has gotten out of hand, creating a public nuisance and posing a danger to children and a hazard to boaters.

In several letters and phone calls to the Trustees, residents who live along the channel running between Cold Spring Pond and Peconic Bay have complained about noise from baymen operating hydraulic winches and motorized pumps on weekends in the close confines of the narrow inlet, often early in the morning. They have also said that the number of buoys has greatly increased in recent years, and that some are very close to shore, the traps they are attached to sometimes protruding from the water at low tide. Boaters have complained the buoys block the channel.

“In the past, we have been happy to support the local fishermen and have not opposed the existing oyster cages that are in the pond,” Kerry Ward, who owns a house on the inlet, wrote in a letter that was read aloud by Trustee Ed Warner Jr. at Monday’s Trustees meeting. “However, each year more and more oyster cages and buoys have appeared in the water behind our house. There are now so many oyster cages and buoys [that] it is blocking our access to the beach behind our home. These cages impede our ability to swim, fish and boat.”

Ted Musho, who owns a waterfront house on Landsend Lane, said that the buoys marking oyster cages sunk in Cold Spring inlet have slowly crept closer to the shore in front of the house and that his family is worried their young children could get tangled in them while swimming. Mr. Musho said his family does not object to the oyster cages being allowed in the area, but would like to see some more careful boundaries for where they can be placed.

“There’s something romantic about it, as a tradition,” Mr. Musho said. “We 
all know the Peconic has struggled 
with the shellfish. It’s just a matter of finding the right balance.”

The Trustees say they are working to balance the desire to help commercial shellfish harvesters through lean times with the concerns of the private homeowners in the area.

“Residents should have a time when they have peace and quiet, when they can not have industrial machinery running in their backyard,” Mr. Warner, who is a professional bayman and proponent of shellfish aquaculture, said on Monday. “It’s a very close area. But there are things we can do to make this whole aquaculture thing work.”

Mr. Warner said the Trustees are considering limits on the number of cages that are placed in the area, precise boundaries for where they can be set and restrictions on the time and areas where baymen can operate motorized equipment used to sort and clean oysters.

Several baymen have cages in the Cold Spring Pond area, but the vast majority are owned by just three men. Bill Pell keeps more than 100 cages in the creek. Jeffrey Kraus, who owns a waterfront property on the channel and has been growing shellfish in the channel for more than a decade, had 65 cages last year, but has only 15 in the water now and plans to have about 35 this summer, he said. His brother, James, has 18 cages.

Mr. Pell and James Kraus were at Monday’s meeting and said the placement of cages can be adjusted to accommodate the crowding concerns of homeowners. Both said the buoys and the attached cages do not pose a hazard to boats. The channel has a 5 mph speed limit for boats.

Mr. Pell said that he has spoken with waterfront residents and has tailored his operation to address their concerns. He said he’s moved his traps away from the beach where there are houses, made sure they were in water deep enough that they didn’t threaten boat motors at low tide, even arranged his buoys so that they were all the same color to lessen the aesthetic impact of his operation.

Mr. Kraus said he would welcome the Trustees imposing some modest restrictions on aquaculture in the area.

“There should be a number that we’re allowed,” Mr. Kraus said. “I would request that the town could maybe work even closer with us as far as the sites—mapped them out, marked them clearly. If that’s the rule, then we go by the rule.”

Like Mr. Pell, Jeffrey Kraus said that residents and the baymen growing oysters in Cold Spring have always worked together to resolve any conflicts. He said homeowners’ complaints about noise were overstated, though, and that complaint letters to the state Department of Environmental Conservation and federal Army Corps of Engineers are now causing problems with the baymen’s state-issued harvesting permits.

“You’ve got homeowners saying, ‘This is okay, as long as we don’t have to look at it,’” he said. “Everywhere we turn, somebody is telling us we don’t want you here. Now it’s causing problems. We’re trying to make a living here.”

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Let 'em raise their oysters for crying out loud. Who was there first - oysters or your waterfront homes.?
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Apr 7, 09 10:45 PM
I'm all for oysters. The more the merrier. These oysterman need to make a living. Limiting them too much affects their livelihood.
By landarchi (33), Southampton on Apr 7, 09 11:12 PM
Here we go again with the "not in my backyard mentality." Oysters help purify the waters - we need all the help we can get out here in that regard. The baymen have been here forever. I say we get rid of the houses instead.
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on Apr 8, 09 9:24 AM
Both the residents and the baymen should speak up about the effects of the ct rd 39 construction and development planning. Cold spring pond water quality is in a process of degradation due to the newly constructed stormwater control system for ct rd 39... and other activies in the area have potential negative effects... including health problems.

It sure is nice that the residents are in a position to complain about the baymen... please don't take it for granted.
By deKooning (106), southampton on Apr 8, 09 10:03 AM
When I had eel pots in Cold Spring Pond back in the 1980's I had complaints about the eel pot buoys from these same home owners.Hey , if you live on the water don't expect total privacy.The waters are a public resource.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Apr 8, 09 10:13 AM
Their work on the water is the sound of history being protected. These Oystermen and Baymen are the very people who are striving to keep the quality of life and the major advantages of living on the East End intact. If you live on the water, water based activities come with it. It's like moving into a forest and complaining about the trees and animals. I remember some folks who built homes along dune Road and then (truthfully) complained about the sand. Up with Oysters!!!
By foodie (74), Remsenburg on Apr 8, 09 10:23 AM
Just remember, we have lost the haul seine industry & income it brought to the community because of this very attitude. The summer residents want to be out here because our area is both quaint & hip. When the quaintness impedes the hipness, they try to put an end to local traditions that offend them. I'm sure that these same people go to Indian Cove & order "Bill Pells Oysters" as they are called on the menu.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Apr 8, 09 12:33 PM
Draggerman , I 've heard that Bill Pell gives local homeowners oysters for free to be friendly.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Apr 8, 09 12:58 PM
This is a sickening example of NIMBY... Jane Q. nailed it.

Thank God there are people like Bill Pell and the Kraus brothers working hard at reviving "local industry." This group of Trustees, who after their shameful actions in Westhampton with Cook's Pond and the cemetery, seem to have lost sight of what their charter is.

There was a time not all that long ago that people like Kerry Ward and Ted Musho would have been shown the door the minute they opened their mouths to complain. ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Apr 8, 09 1:24 PM
Matt....You are correct. Bill Pell has given my family free oysters a few times. He is a great guy and we need more people in our community like him.
By courtesy (43), Southampton on Apr 9, 09 9:50 PM
Bill Pell is a stand-up guy in all regards. His product (the oysters) is great and he always gives back generously to the community. I can't picture a man who is more responsive to working with his neighbors. These complainers are more than just an annoyance - they are being inordinately selfish and are at risk of damaging the very thing that attracted them here in the first place.
By barberosa (39), Westhampton on Apr 10, 09 10:29 AM
These oyster man are a great asset to the community-nothing should be done that would limit their contributions. We need oysters a lot more than disgruntled summer homeowners. Bill Pell has always done things correctly.
By Lefty46 (56), Westhampton on Apr 13, 09 4:23 PM
You know...Its a damn shame that these people come out here from the city for the summer and want to take control of our town. They expect us to bend over backwards for them when in reality...this is our town and they should be bending over backwards for us. They always think they deserve better. Well I've got news...we were here first and if they dont like it the DON'T COME HERE! Its as simple as that.
By courtesy (43), Southampton on Apr 13, 09 7:55 PM
The whole thing can be solved by enforcing the Dongan Patent, cut and dried. These guys can oyster right up to the mean high tide mark, and these people complaining wouldn't be allowed to have a dock or bulkhead. Why hasn't anyone mentioned the fact that their bulkheads, as well as their cesspools, pools being pumped into the bay as well as their fertilizer run off, has basically killed the bays out here. I for one am sick of these damn people, and the fact that we are accommodating the problem; ...more
By clamdigger (85), Quogue on Nov 1, 09 6:58 PM