Suffolk funding keeps wetland station open

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Improved water quality monitoring and examination of wetland conditions will begin April 1 at Flax Pond in Old Field after the Suffolk County Legislature voted this week to fund a U.S. Geological Survey project.

The $186,000 contract will be paid out of the water quality protection and restoration program, which is funded through a quarter-percent sales tax.

The one-year contract allows the USGS to do real-time monitoring of tidal levels, salinity, dissolved oxygen, water temperature and acidity in the 146-acre salt marsh, said Chris Schubert, a supervisory hydrologist with the USGS Water Science Center in Coram.

"This project will provide information critical to protect and restore tidal wetlands and shellfish, finfish and crustacean habitats in this fragile but magnificent environmental sanctuary," Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said in a statement.

Monitoring at the site dates back to 2008 but because of funding cuts, the USGS has recently been measuring only tidal levels and temperatures, downloading the data every two months.

"Having Suffolk County come in and kind of adopt this station and work with us to operate it . . . is great," Schubert said. "It's exciting."

The station is one of four USGS locations on the North Shore measuring water quality and tidal wetland conditions. Monitoring at the three others, all in Nassau County, is funded through March 31, Schubert said.

The stations are at East Creek in Sands Point, West Pond in Glen Cove and Frost Creek in Lattingtown.

The agency is talking with the state Department of Environmental Conservation in hopes of securing funding to keep the stations operating, Schubert said.

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DEC is requesting a grant from the Long Island Sound Study but, if approved, money would not become available until October, DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said in an email.

Nassau County did not respond to a request for comment about funding the monitoring.

The data collected will help provide a glimpse into how rising sea levels and erosion affect marshlands, which act as storm surge buffers.

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