A new group concerned about the health of Bellport Bay has formed, hoping to address such issues as the cleanliness of the bay and whether to close an inlet formed by superstorm Sandy.
Friends of Bellport Bay sprang to life last year after raising small amounts of money through arts sales. The group also relies on donations of oysters and clams that will be used to restock the bay.
"I was inspired to help improve the quality of the bay, which is in very bad health," said Thomas Schultz, 48, the group's co-founder.
"Bellport Village is a bay community. It's important to restock shellfish and find ways to assist in decreasing pollutants that run off into the bay," said Schultz, a 23-year Bellport Village resident.
Bellport Bay, the eastern edge of the Great South Bay, was the focus of a debate after superstorm Sandy tore open a breach in the barrier beach in October 2012.
Several federal, county and local officials called for the breach to be closed to protect South Shore communities from flooding.
Scientists and environmentalists argued that leaving the cut open could help flush pollutants from the bay and improve its overall health.
The breach is within the boundary of Fire Island National Seashore.
"We have made no decision" about the future of the breach, Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Chris Soller said. "Since the breach, there hasn't been any increased water levels."
He said that an environmental impact study would be conducted before a final determination is rendered.
Friends of Bellport Bay hosted its inaugural meeting in February laying out its mission, which includes ensuring the public knows the status of the breach, and to plant shellfish, mussels and clams to filter the water, officials said.
It also aims to assist shoreline communities such as Brookhaven hamlet and Shirley in improving their storm-water runoff systems, and will inform the public on how to limit the use of fertilizers, officials said.
Since forming, the group has gained momentum. Brookhaven Town has agreed to donate 100,000 mature oysters sometime this summer.
"Oysters have a tremendous way of keeping waters clean," Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said.
And Gregg Rivara, aquaculture specialist at Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, said his agency will provide 40,000 baby oysters, which he said will reproduce and thus "help create habitat for other marine species."
Former Bellport Mayor David Pate, a former Coast Guard member who conducted patrols searching for oil and ship discharges, is a group member.
"Everyone goes out and enjoys and views the bay, but I don't think everyone understands the balance to make sure it stays healthy," Pate said.