Albany makes shell of an investment in Island waters

What a dump: Gov. Andrew Cuomo releases clams into Huntington Harbor Wednesday, a symbolic start to Albany's new $10.4 million Long Island shellfish program.

New York State is throwing $10.4 million into Long Island coastal waters in an effort to improve water quality and bolster seaside economies by restoring native shellfish populations.

Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the Halesite Fire Department in Huntington Wednesday to announce the dedicated grant program, which includes five new sanctuary sites in Suffolk and Nassau and expanded public shellfish hatcheries in both counties.

Clam up: The governor touted his administration’s many clean-water efforts Wednesday in Huntington.

As shellfish like clams and oysters are natural oceanic filters, the eight-figure investment – Albany will spend $7.25 million on the restoration of public hatcheries across Long Island and another $3.15 million on adult shellfish stocks – will not only bolster local economies, according to the governor, but help keep Island waters clean.

“As a society, we make collective mistakes,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “We have abused the environment.

“Sometimes we did it unknowingly, sometimes we did it knowingly, but we have to remediate the damage that we did.”

The lion’s share of the $7.25 million hatcheries effort – $5 million – will go to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, which will expand its private shellfish hatchery and plant shellfish at the other sanctuary sites, which will be marked by special buoys. The rest will be used to increase capacity at existing public hatcheries in Brookhaven, South Hampton, East Hampton, Islip and Hempstead, as well as waters owns by the Shinnecock Nation.

The $3.15 million stocking effort will bring some 28 million adult shellfish into regional sanctuaries – a huge leap toward the project’s ultimate goal of seeding 179 million shellfish over the next two years.

A state Shellfish Restoration Council – chaired by representatives of Stony Brook University, the CCE and the Billion Oyster Project, an ecosystem-restoration effort sponsored by the New York Harbor Foundation – will keep track of the project, according to Cuomo, who took time at Wednesday’s press event to check off his administration’s other clean-water efforts, including his cornerstone $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act.

“Protecting our natural assets is critically important for Long Island,” the governor said. “By restoring our shellfish populations and investing in the preservation of New York’s coastal communities, we will strengthen the regional economy, create new jobs and ensure our waters are clean.”