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Board working to support baymen

Bayman Tom Field has been meeting with his colleagues on a regular basis to discuss issues of importance and to bring them to the Town Board.

On March 26, Mr. Field outlined a raft of concerns he hopes will result in action by the Town Board, which in the past has had some contentious meetings with baymen.

Restoration of Reel Point is essential, Mr. Field said. He suggested use of groins — narrow structures placed from beaches out into the water to prevent erosion — to stabilize Reel Point.

Supervisor Gary Gerth said efforts by Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) make it likely the Army Corps of Engineers will get involved in the restoration of the Point.

The Peconic Land Trust has indicated it would sell Reel Point to the town, but remains involved working on the final stage of a project that would involve plantings to further secure the area.

Mr. Field asked the supervisor to send a letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, reinforcing town control of water bottoms. The baymen have come to the Town Board in the past over a draft of a “seagrass management plan” for the bay bottoms that they thought was ill-conceived.

But they have been working with Councilman Jim Colligan on revisions. The baymen want ongoing monitoring of the seagrass beds and more public education about the importance of the grasses.

The group would also like to see a fish restocking program established.

The baymen have previously raised an issue about outsiders coming into Island waters to compete with them for scallops, clams and crabs. They would like the town to follow the lead of other municipalities in issuing permits to locals who fish these waters.

Mr. Field explained they’re not trying to stop individuals who are seeking their own meals from the sea. But they don’t want to have their harvests decline because of outside commercial people using traps, pots and nets to scoop up the supply they believe rightfully belong to commercial baymen who live here.

Those who would be able to apply for the permits would have to submit proof of their residency.

Another issue is the establishment of oyster farms in local waters, Mr. Field said, which the baymen oppose.

The baymen are also concerned about changes to Crab Creek. Marcus Kaasik explained the flow of water there has changed since a new inlet opened in the southern part of the creek. While the flow in the south is good for that area, there’s now concern about upper Crab Creek, where 90 percent of the flow is coming along the bulkhead.

Mr. Gerth asked Mr. Kaasik to share pictures he has taken that show differences and said he would add Crab Creek to the list of areas for dredging.

Menantic Creek also needs to be dredged, Mr. Field said. And there’s a hump inside the channel at Shell Beach that should be leveled the next time dredging is done in that area.

Another area of concern for the baymen are permanent screw anchors that tend to threaten fishing efforts. This spring, Mr. Colligan said an effort will be undertaken to remove abandoned anchors.

Another bayman, Steve Lenox, said the town is allowing too many moorings. Many in the area around Ram Island are underwater, he added, where they are not visible and therefore dangerous

Moorings should be checked every three years, the men agreed, and owners of those moorings should be required to show proof that they’ve been inspected and repaired or replaced, if necessary.