The state Department of Environmental Conservation just released its shellfish landings data for 2014. It documents the harvest of clams, mussels, oysters and scallops taken from our local waters. Shellfish feed by filtering out algae, which, in turn, require sunlight, proper water conditions and nutrients. In most waters where shellfish are harvested, one nutrient controls the availability of algae. That nutrient is nitrogen.

We have all heard that excessive nitrogen loading to our waters can cause harmful algae blooms, low levels of dissolved oxygen and habitat degradation; no one challenges this. And based on what most of us have heard about the increasing amounts of nitrogen in our bays, it would be understandable to assume that our bays are on a downward trend and doing poorly. If we gave them a grade, it would be failing.

But if we let the bays tell us how they are doing, we get a puzzling answer. Last year's 100,000-pound harvest of bay scallops was almost 20 times as great as the year before. It was the greatest catch by far in the last decade. Based on the scallop harvest, our bays might get an A.

How do we reconcile our perception of how we think the bay is doing to how it actually is? Last year's unexplained scallop harvest should at least give us pause until we can align our expectations of nitrogen management with the bays' response to it.

Roger C. Tollefsen, Hampton Bays

Editor's note: The writer is the president of the New York Seafood Council, representing the state seafood industry.


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NIMBY cure: regional zoning


In New York, towns and villages have essentially absolute power over the regional real estate market. Long Island has 111 distinct self-interested zoning jurisdictions, composed of 97 villages, 13 towns and two cities.

The State of New York desperately needs to give each of its 12 regional planning councils the power to become authorities that can trump NIMBY local zoning jurisdictions and approve developments of regional significance. These developments are being stopped by parochial towns and villages.

Long Island needs a freer regional real estate market. The Long Island Regional Planning Council needs to become the Long Island Regional Planning Authority -- and then Long Island would grow naturally, its tax base would increase substantially, and individual property tax rates would decline. Meanwhile, aggregate property tax revenue would become plentiful for infrastructure improvements.

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Clifford Sondock, Jericho

Editor's note: The writer is the president of the Land Use Institute, a policy organization.


Trashy trove as snow melts


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Now that we are leaving winter and the snow has melted, what is revealed is not only the earth waiting to burst forth with the promise of spring, but a whole lot of litter. As I walk through the neighborhood, I am astonished to see so much rotting paper, plastic bottles, cigarette butts, discarded wrappers and other debris that had been hidden. The landscape looks sad and devalues our homes.

If we all pitched in and cleaned up just a little bit around our homes and yards, our communities would look beautiful once again. It takes very little time to set things straight.

Henry Euler, Bayside