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Huntington eyes carp to clean boat pond

On any given late fall or winter Thursday or Saturday, members of the Heckscher Model Yacht Club in Heckscher Park sail their boats in the pond. But come the sunnier, balmier spring and summer, they take their hobby elsewhere.

That's because algae blooms and Hornwart, a thick, underwater sea plant, have grown so wildly that it makes it impossible for the 1- to 4-foot-long boats -- with keels that descend 2 feet below the water's surface -- to navigate the 4- to 6-foot deep pond.

"As the boats move along they pick up all sorts of things," said Ron Lange, vice commodore of the club. "Eventually, it just stops you from sailing."

Harry Acker, senior harbormaster for the Town of Huntington, said once the warm weather arrives and algae discolors the pond and Hornwart thickens, addressing the problem becomes an issue.

"The town board is very environmentally conscious," Acker said. "They shy away from putting any type of chemical in the pond. We'd rather do it naturally."

So the board is responding to a request Lange said boat club members made about two years ago: to consider a natural solution, one the town of Babylon had tried -- introducing grass carp, a plant-only eating fish with a voracious appetite for Hornwart, to the pond.

Babylon town officials said they have successfully used grass carp in their pond at town hall and at the town annex in North Babylon since September 2009.

Acker said that after much consideration, the town agreed to the idea and has gotten permits from the state Department of Conservation to introduce about 40 grass carp into the pond.

But because grass carp are not native to the area, the DEC requires that the fish be sterile and that a fence be installed so the fish can be contained. Last month, the town board approved a contract to have the fence installed by AMMA Construction Corp. of Huntington Station.

"According to the DEC, even though the fish are supposed to be sterilized, to make absolutely sure they don't get out, a fence is required," Acker said.

Acker said there is also concern that if a stray fish or two were not sterile, the pond could become overpopulated.

The town's Environmental Open Space and Park Fund Review Advisory Committee will pay for the fence, which will cost a little more than $16,000. The town's maritime services department is paying the $600 for the fish.

The town engineering department is reviewing construction plans to approve the materials for the fence.

Hank Jost, commodore of the Heckscher Model Yacht Club, which during the warmer months sails boats at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, thanked the town for hearing their plight. "Now we have high hopes that we'll be sailing throughout the summer next year, right here at home," Jost said.

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