County’s first ‘living shorelines’ project planned for marine education center, in partnership with Southold Town

Denise Civiletti

Protecting our fragile coastline without building structures that “harden” it — like bulkheads, revetments and sea walls — is the goal of “living shorelines” projects like the demonstration project proposed for a canal off Cedar Beach in Southold.

Plans crafted by Suffolk County and Cornell Cooperative Extension for the county’s first “living shoreline” project, to be located at the marine education center in Southold, got a green light today from the County Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee.

The demonstration project will consist of a layer of natural materials planted with spartina alterniflora and black ribbed mussels on about 197 feet of shoreline at the education center. Together, these materials, plants and molluscs will stabilize the shoreline and, at the same time, help reduce nitrogen, bacteria and toxins in the water, according to county officials.

The ribbed mussels, which are not edible, filter out smaller particles than oysters and survive in warmer waters than the blue mussels found in the L.I. Sound, Cornell marine scientist Barry Udelman told legislators today. They are perfectly suited to the living shorelines project, he said.

“This is probably a project that should have been done 10 years ago,” Krupski told members of the committee, which his father, Legislator Al Krupski, a former longtime trustee himself, serves as vice chairman. “As the first living shorelines project in Suffolk County, we can use it as a prototype going forward. We can bring people down there and show them the different ways you can protect the shoreline,” the younger Krupski said.

Shoreline hardening structures like bulkheads are the most common way to mitigate erosion, but they usually result in loss of habitat and ecosystem function, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Green infrastructure like living shorelines are sustainable alternatives to shoreline hardening structures and are beneficial to the environment.

The committee today approved a resolution authorizing the appropriation of $58,000 in water quality protection funds to the demonstration project. The water quality committee already approved it, Suffolk County planning director Sarah Landsdale told legislators. The measure will be put before the full legislature at its next general meeting Sept. 7.

Southold Town already authorized a grant application to the county for the $58,000 to be appropriated. The town’s matching portion of half the cost of the project, up to $58,000 will be made with in-kind services, Supervisor Scott Russell said today.

Nick Krupski, a former employee at the marine education center, said if the funding is provided in time, the mussels would be propagated in the Cornell lab over the winter and planted next season.

Courtney Blasl contributed reporting.

Photo: County Legislator Al Krupski and Southold Town Trustee Nick Krupski at the Suffolk County Marine Education Center this afternoon, where the county and town are partnering on a 'living shorelines' demonstration project that will create green infrastructure on the shoreline behind them. Photo: Denise Civiletti