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Peconic River fish kill forces postponement of annual cardboard boat race

Thousands of dead bunker fish cover the shore

Thousands of dead bunker fish cover the shore at Indian Island County Park Beach in Riverhead on Sunday, May 30, 2015. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Riverhead officials have rescheduled the town's annual cardboard boat race after two fish die-offs in the past month inundated the Peconic River with dead bunker fish.

The race, which was to take place on the river next Sunday, was pushed back to Aug. 23 for "the safety and comfort of participants and spectators," town officials said in a news release Friday.

Riverhead officials acted quickly to reschedule the event after Suffolk County health officials issued an advisory on Thursday warning residents of increased risks posed by bacteria, viruses and parasites from the dead fish, Councilman George Gabrielsen said in the release.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the fish kill "could not have been planned for, and we are doing our best along with the Town of Southampton to quickly remedy the situation."

Walter added that town officials "are very confident that the situation will greatly improve well in advance of the Aug. 23 rescheduled race and hope to attract an even larger and more enthusiastic crowd than we welcomed in the last few years."

The regatta, now in its sixth year, draws hundreds of spectators each summer to the edge of the Peconic River in downtown Riverhead. The event features participants paddling homemade cardboard boats in four races, including one that pits Walter against Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Workers removed 10,000 pounds of bunker from the river on Wednesday following the second die-off in about two weeks.

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