A Cornell Cooperative Extension barge tends the lantern nets at...

A Cornell Cooperative Extension barge tends the lantern nets at the bay scallop spawner sanctuary in Orient Harbor, an area where shellfishing might be at risk due to bacterial sources. Credit: Randee Daddona

A Southold board plans to test four watershed areas where shellfishing might be at risk due to bacterial sources, and will seek thousands in funding from Suffolk County to pay for it.

The Southold Board of Trustees and the town’s Shellfish Advisory Committee are seeking a $24,000 grant from the county’s Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program to help cover expenses for planned tests to determine where coliform bacterial sources — otherwise known as intestinal bacteria — in four town water bodies are originating.

Those areas include Orient Harbor and Oysterponds Creek, as well as the Peconic Estuary Tributary, all in Orient; East Creek in Cutchogue; and Silvermere Road in Greenport. At its Nov. 29 meeting, the advisory committee identified those areas — each of them known for either community or commercial shellfishing — as sites where coliform bacteria has placed shellfishing at risk.

“They all have some positive features [which those involved would like to protect],” said John Bredemeyer III, the trustee board’s vice president, of the water bodies.

The work would be carried out by the trustees and workers at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.

Data from new testing could be used to identify future solutions and town projects to protect shellfishing in those areas, Bredemeyer said. The tests would also provide new, updated water samples the committee would share with the state Department of Environmental Conservation in its shellfish sanitation program.

The board is working on completing an application by late February.

The trustees are focusing on getting money from the county, though state and other funding sources have not been ruled out. Bredemeyer said the trustees and town engineers have budget lines in place to cover testing expenses and plan to begin testing later this year.

Robert S. DeLuca, president and CEO of the Southold-based environmental advocate Group for the East End, said the nonprofit supports the effort and “recognizes the issue of bacterial contamination, alongside other water-quality issues like residential wastewater, as essential components of a comprehensive water-quality protection strategy.”

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