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On the Bay: July 26, 2011

If it is summer, it means that Matt Meyran, Port Washington Water Taxi, is out and about on the bay. And it also means that the Port Washington Library’s Nautical Council sponsors bay tours for the community. These started over the weekend and were quite successful. For the past three or so years, the Nautical Council has partnered with the Water Taxi to take people on a tour of the bay. Because of the heat this past weekend, the tour went out into the Sound to catch some breeze to cool down those intrepid souls who ventured out on such a hot day. With temperatures in the triple digits, it was difficult to keep everyone comfortable, but, as usual, Matt Meyran had tons on cool drinks on board.

Special to the boat tours this year is the addition of Jennifer Wilson-Pines, who is the director of the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee. She came on board to speak about the bay and its ecological history. She was full of information and could have talked twice as long – maybe even longer, for her knowledge is quite extensive.

According to a handout, Jennifer provided the following information: The bay has a rich history. The Matinecock Indians fished and clammed its bountiful waters for thousands of years. Dutch and then English settlers arrived in the 1600’s. It was a center for oystering in the early 1800s and sourced of the sands that cemented New York City between 1875 and 1960. The mansions of the 1920s Gold Coast reigned over the shores, with Sands Point and Kings Point being the models for East and West Egg in the Great Gatsby. With the mansions came yacht clubs and famous boats. In the 1930s, seaplanes roared out of the bay, with the Pan Am Clipper taking off for the first commercial flight to Europe in 1939.

But by the 1980s, water quality had deteriorated in the bay and all around western Long Island Sound from industrial sewage and nonpoint discharges. The Long Island Sound Study, formed in 1985, created a framework, the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) for improving water quality. The Clean Water Act is the underpinning of the work that has been done in the last 25 years.

The Manhasset Bay Protection Committee was formed in 1997 to tackle improving water quality in the bay to allow everyone to once again enjoy the waters. A master plan was developed to guide the actions of the committee and the member municipalities. The committee is an inter-municipal organization. The members of the committee include the Incorporated Villages of Baxter Estates, Flower Hill, Great Neck, Kensington, Kings Point, Manorhaven, Munsey Park, Plandome, Plandome Heights, Plandome Manor, Port Washington North, Sands Point, Thomaston, the Town of North Hempstead and Nassau County. More information about the committee is available on Facebook and on the web at www.manhassetbay

The bay’s watershed – the surrounding land where water drains to the bay – is about 10,000 acres, including most of the Port Washington and Great Neck peninsulas and south along Community Drive past the LIE. Most of it contains separate storm sewer systems. Unlike NYC, we don’t filter or treat our storm water at a sewage treatment plant. It goes straight into the bay. So anything that is on the ground during a storm: trash, oil, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, dirt, leaves, droppings…all goes into the storm drains and into the bay.

Readers might wonder what The Manhasset Bay Protection Committee (MBPC) does for our community. For starters, the committee co-sponsors the annual International Beach Clean Up every September. This citizen science event draws 50-70 participants and not only cleans the beach but creates a set of data of what is in the water. Cleanups have gone from tons to less than 100 pounds, mostly cigarette butts, Styrofoam bits and candy and chip wrappers. Most of the debris got into the water from storm water run off.

There are two portable displays that are set up at festivals like Earth Day, Clark Gardens, Ecofest Clark Gardens, and HarborFest. A three-part series on the committee was developed for North Hempstead Television (Channels 18 & 73). The committee publishes articles in local newspapers, maintains a website packed with information and has a presence on Facebook. The director is available to give talks to groups and schools.

The MBPC has been successful in winning a number of grants. A Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant was awarded last year for boater education and pollution prevention, including developing literature and handing out devices like bilge socks to boaters. A water quality data mining project transferred decades of paper data into a computer database. Stannards Brook got three-season wet weather testing to identify sources of pollutants and a look at seasonal changes. And a watershed curriculum was developed with the Science Museum at Leeds Pond.

According to Jennifer, the bay is safe to swim in today, as Matt Meyran so visually demonstrated for us when he took a swim off the town dock at the conclusion of the boat tour. While no others joined in, you have to believe if they were dressed more properly for a quick dip, they would have jumped right in!

The Manhasset Bay Protection Committee receives assistance from the NYS Dept of State, the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, the NYS Legislative Commission of Water Resource Needs of Long Island, NY Sea Grant, EPA and the Long Island Sound Study.

Jennifer Wilson-Pines will be presenting a program sponsored by the Nautical Council at the Port Washington Public Library during the winter months – when the sailors and fishermen are back on land and have time to enjoy an evening of learning about the bay and how to preserve our waterfront for future generations. Ample notification will be distributed as to the time and date. This will be something you won’t want to miss. We all need to get involved and preserve the beauty of Manhasset Bay, for she provides us with her beauty each and every day, in all kinds of weather.

Next week look for racing results from bay racing and Thirsty Thursday.