By Stephen J. Kotz
Governor Andrew Cuomo used the occasion of a boat tour of Shinnecock Bay with Stony Brook University and other elected officials on Friday to announce $2.05 million in new state funding for the New York Sea Grant program.
The money will be used for water quality projects in Shinnecock Bay and other nearby water bodies.
The governor was joined by State Senator Steve Englebright, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine.
During the boat tour, he received a primer from Dr. Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences on value shellfish like hard clams and oysters provide by filtering pollutants from bay waters.
The governor joined Dr. Gobler and several others in ceremonially seeding several bags of small hard clams into the bay, as two State Department of Environmental Conservation police boats kept an eye on the scene and television cameramen, still photographers and a drone recorded the governor’s every move.
“There is no issue more important than water quality in Suffolk County,” the governor said.
Mr. Cuomo said he would like to see at least 30 million more shellfish seeded into the bays urged Southampton Town to aggressively pursue the construction of its own shellfish hatchery.
Back on dry land, County Executive Bellone introduced the governor to a crowd of about 100 people who gathered for a press conference.
“He doesn’t just talk about the issues. He gets it done,” Mr. Bellone said, adding, “It’s great to have a leader who cares about the environment.”
The Sea Grant program, which is run by Stony Brook and Cornell University, is funded by federal and state sources. According to a press release from the governor’s office, the federal government plans to cut off its share of the funding. The $2 million the governor announced in new funding will be added to $400,000 it currently provides on an annual basis.
Although the governor did not provide details about what kind of programs would be funded, environmentalists have long cautioned that seeding shellfish alone will not restore the bays and that steps must be taken to reduce runoff from lawns and roads as well as halt the leaching of pollutants from septic systems.
Mr. Cuomo said his commitment to the next generation is to leave them a Long Island that “better, cleaner, safer than we found Long Island.”
Before he left, Mr. Cuomo was asked for his reaction to President Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris climate accord, which more than 190 nations have signed onto.
“I think that is it was a tremendous mistake,” he said of the president’s decision, calling the agreement “a great world advancement.”
He said New York would join California in following the accord. “I don’t believe the people of this country support withdrawal from the accord,” he said.