|The Suffolk Times Editorial "Keep safe on the waters" points
out that incompetent boaters endanger themselves and others. The Editor's
suggestion to alleviate this problem, providing better lighting on the
jetty East of Greenport Harbor, is woefully inadequate. If our Town Trustees
understood the power of precatory action, a handbook for Southold Town
Boaters could be published online to squarely address the issue of dangers
But, what is more important is the issue curiously avoided by both local press and local politicians. How the Peconic Bays, harbors and creeks are being seriously injured by the ignorance of boaters and others. The real issue is how to keep the waters safe, not how to keep people safe on the waters.
Brown tide and the resulting dead fields of eel grass in the Peconic Bays has been extensively studied for over ten years, still the cause of and cure for brown tide is a mystery.
What is even more mysterious to me, salt marshes in East Creek Cutchogue no longer turn more than a pale green and the marsh islands have been falling apart at a rapidly accelerating rate, yet noone seems to notice. As a waterfront resident who spent my childhood in sunfish, canoes and rowboats, I have been aware of the problem for at least the past five years. But by now you do not even have to get out of your car to see the erosion of the marsh islands. However if you want to see the disaster area close up, it is best to take a kayak or a windsurfer.
The Suffolk Times has not published any news about the dying marshes. The closest thing I could find was in the "Focus on Nature" column by Paul Stoutenburgh entitled "A foggy peek at the creek" published on June 7, 2004. I quote: ""We're fortunate here on the North Fork to have so many wonderful creeks that run into the bays from Orient to Riverhead. The trouble is that we have often abused our creeks and they've lost some of their pristine beauty."
On July 2, 2006 The New York Times did publish (in the CONNECTICUT WEEKLY DESK section) an article by Avi Salzman entitled: "ENVIRONMENT; Something Is Killing the Marsh Grass, but No One Is Sure What It Is". It was reported that "Scientists have noticed bare wetlands throughout New England, and even near Orient Point, on Long Island" the problem was identified as "sudden wetland dieback", but the sources interviewed in the article admitted that "we don't know what it is or how to stop it".
On July 17, 2006 The Boston Globe published an article by Carolyn Y. Johnson entitled: "Cause sought as marshes turn into barren flats" among the scientists' remarks quoted in the article were the following: "... new phenomenon we've never seen before ...", "... This great of an expanse of denuded salt marsh is not natural ... It's not typical", "It's really confusing ... people who have had long careers working in salt marshes, 40-odd years, think it's a very bizarre, unprecedented phenomenon ...", and "what's really scary ... we may be losing something that has taken hundreds or thousands of years".
Before the turn of the 21st Century (1/1/2001) salt marshes on the Gulf Coast experienced the same or a similar problem. On October 23, 2000 M.J. "Mike" Foster, JR., Governor of the state of Louisiana, issued a DECLARATION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY entitled "Loss of Saltwater Marshes. His statement described "the "brown marsh phenomenon," an unusually and rapidly spreading browning of the normally lush green saltwater marsh grass Spartina alterniflora, which has caused an immediate threat to public health and safety, the environment, and public and private property."
We may not have a silver bullet, but there are many things we can do.
But, we can't do anything until we recognize that there is a problem.