The discussed plans at a Tuesday night meeting to create a $150,000 salt marsh at to help improve the water quality of the popular and scenic Peconic spot on the Long Island Sound.
The project, which according to Group for the East End members would also improve the quality of Autumn Pond, would be funded by a water quality improvement grant from the Long Island Study and the National Fish And Wildlife Fund.
The Group For The East End has already been allocated a $60,000 water quality improvement grant from the Long Island Sound Study, funded in part from the National Fish and Wildlife Fund, to implement the planning phase of the project to create a salt marsh. The salt marsh grasses will be located in what is classified as an upland area. Areas classified as inter-tidal zones are virtually untouchable due to government regulations, according to Group for the East End members.
Goldsmith Inlet, once a popular place for shellfishing, has long been pegged by local environmental groups as an environmental disaster with stagnant water filled with invasive plants due to the inlet's channel from Long Island Sound being overrun with sand.
According to Rothstein, the primary function of the salt marsh would be to remove nitrogen and phosphorous from the water. A secondary function of the salt marsh is habitat enhancement. The salt marsh would benefit marine fisheries and improve the habitat for birds and other wildlife. The marsh would the filter tidal flow in Goldsmith's Inlet and lower levels of contamination, but would not filter the body of water in Autumn Pond. For this reason, the group determined that the effects of several run-off vector control drainage pipes would need to be closely monitored.
The first phase of the plan would be to identify sources of contamination that have raised levels of fecal coliform contamination. Streams, vector control drainage pipes, septic systems, and road run-off were cited as possible sources. The Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, of contamination would have to be determined to better understand the exact sources responsible for potentially dangerous levels of contamination.
A watershed model, generated with the use of a watershed map, could help to identify the sources of contamination. This is the first watershed project implemented by the Group For The East End, and exact contamination levels would need to be determined with scientific measurements taken by experts at the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
The group determined that the watershed project would not be a beautification plan, but one that would address the problem solving challenge of improving water quality at Autumn Lake and Goldsmith Inlet.
One resident at the meeting proposed that human defecation is one potential source of contamination, and that the lack of bathrooms at Goldsmith Inlet contributes to raised levels of contamination.
The group also discussed the possibility of deep water dredging of Goldsmith's Inlet to increase the volume of the tidal flow of seawater to help flush out contaminants.
Severe flooding during storm surges along Second Avenue were also discussed at the meeting, but hydrologist Eric Rothstein suggested that his plan to create a salt water marsh would not help to improve problems with flooding.
"Consensus building is important," said Lillian Ball, a Southold resident and environmental artist active in creating projects and awareness to help clean up local watersheds. "It's part of the challenging process which surrounds ecological restoration or remediation projects."