Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Here's What It's Like to Get Rabies Shots

Jennifer, the nurse from the health department, called Monday evening to see if we had found the bat that had woken us up the other night. We hadn’t. She wanted to know if either of us had been awake, or even half awake, when the bat flew into the room. We both had been sound asleep.

Unfortunately if you want a public health nurse to tell you don’t need rabies shots, those were the wrong answers. She had wanted to know whether we could say with any assurance that we had been aware of the bat’s whereabouts and that those whereabouts didn’t include our skin. But we couldn’t say that.

She told us that a doctor from the health department would call by about 9:30 today, with more questions and instructions, but that we’d have to start treatment. Where do we do that? One of us could pick up the vaccine and the immunoglobulin at the health department office in New Rochelle, she said, and bring it to our doctors. We’d need a vaccination and immunoglobulin on the first day, and then more vaccine on the third, seventh, fourteenth and twenty-eighth days.

Someone from the health department finally called at around 11 the next morning. Her instructions weren’t quite the same as Jennifer’s, or quite as simple. Your doctor has to order the vaccine and the immunoglobulin, she said. Then it’ll be sent via overnight courier.

I called my doctor and at 2 p.m. he got back to me. He’s a good doctor, always sympathetic, and I like him because about seven years ago he saved my life; but he and his colleagues run the New Canaan Medical Group like a business and if something is inefficient or gets in the way of their practice, they don’t tolerate it.

Such is the case with rabies shots. They gave up administering them about five years ago, he told me, mainly because it was too much trouble. He said we’d have to go to the emergency room at Norwalk Hospital, and they’d make an appointment for us to get the shots at a place called Express Care.

Express Care turned out to be the part of the Norwalk Emergency room where they treat people who don’t quite have real emergencies. It also turned out that the word “Express” was something of an overstatement.

We got there at 5 and checked in with the emergency room nurses, who were happy to make jokes about the numerous shots we’d be getting. Rabies immunoglobulin is administered based on weight. The more you weigh, the more you need. A smaller person will need fewer shots than a larger person, the nurse told us, and she looked at me with her eyebrows raised and a little smile on her lips, as if to say, “You’re in trouble, buddy.”

She said that when she was a kid, she and her friends caught bats, and no one worried about rabies. To me that emphasized the one undeniable truth of this episode: if a bat flies into your room, you don’t really need rabies shots, but no public health official or doctor or nurse is willing to tell you that.

We were sent to the waiting room. After a few minutes, a woman emerged from an office and called my wife’s name and then another woman emerged and called my name. They were ready to register us. Each went back into her office and had us sit in a chair separated from her by a thick plastic ticket booth-type window. My registrar, whose name was Colleen, told me bats had been living in the attic of her house and found their way into her son’s room three times. He got the shots the first time, she said. The second and third times he didn’t bother.

We went back to the waiting room. Soon a nurse came out of the Express Care doors and called our names. She had orange hair and wore blue scrubs – the Mets colors, I noted irrelevantly. She led us into a small room set up for eye exams.

“Wait here and someone will be in to talk to you, to figure out if you need the shots.”

“You mean we might not need the shots? That’s not what everyone has been saying.”

“Were you bitten?” she said, and she smiled as if she knew something we didn’t.

She shut the door and we waited. We read. We chatted. We looked at the eye charts on the wall. After half-an-hour a doctor came in. He told us that rabies treatment was effective but that it wasn’t really based on science: there’s no evidence that you’ve been exposed and there’s no evidence that you can get rabies from a bat being in your room. But we’ll treat you anyway, he said.

“The truth is,” I said, “no one is willing to say we don’t need the shots.”

“I’m not saying you do and I’m not saying you don’t,” he said. “It’s your decision.”

He told us he had ordered the immunoglobulin and the vaccine and that it would be up soon. Gina was particularly worried that the immunoglobulin shots would make her muscles sore over the next couple of days.

“How much of it do we need?” she asked.

“One shot,” the doctor said. “For you, one teaspoon full. For you [he looked at me], two teaspoons.”

He left. Outside at the desk the staff was talking about the immunoglobulin and the vaccine, and about the schedule for future shots. A nurse was trying to write down on a form when we’d need to return – day three, day seven, day 14, day 28 – and was having an extremely difficult time figuring out when those days would be.

After about 10 minutes, two nurses – a man and a woman – approached bearing hypodermic needles. The woman told us we’d get the vaccine in the arm and the immunoglobulin in “the heiney,” as she put it.

“Two for you,” she said to Gina, “and four for you.”

Although my courage has improved in recent years, I’m still an enormous baby when it comes to getting injections. I don’t like to see other people getting a needle, I don’t even like to look at the needle. The nurses’ plan was to administer the immunoglobulin and the vaccine to me and Gina at the same time, in the eye-exam room. But I didn’t want to have to see and hear her getting her shots, so I asked if we could do it separately. The nurses were surprised but happy to accommodate us. I stepped out into the area near the main desk and as I waited, my nurse decided she might as well at least administer the vaccine and so with surprising quickness, she wiped my upper arm with an alcohol pad, jabbed the needle into me, wiped it clean, and we were done with that part.

As for the four shots of immunoglobulin, I’m afraid I have to report that they weren’t so bad. The nurse was quick and reasonably skilled – the first shot didn’t hurt at all, the second hurt a fair amount, and the other two were in between. By 6:50 we were done and on our way home.

We have to return to Express Care four times over the next month for more vaccine. Unfortunately they do not make appointments and we were told that each time, we’ll have to register anew, and so there’s no telling how long it will take for what should be a five minute procedure.

But do we need it? I don’t know. All I know is that no one was willing to say we didn’t.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Biotoxin" Forces a Ban on Shellfishing in Parts of Long Island Sound, But Is it the Red Tide?

Shellfish on the north shore of Long Island have been infected with a biotoxin, prompting the state to ban shellfishing in

Northport Bay; Centerport Harbor; Duck Island Harbor; Lloyd Harbor; Coast Guard Cove and all of Huntington Bay south of a line extending northeast from the northernmost point of land at Lloyd Point to the northernmost point of land at Eatons Neck Point.

… The positive samples for the biotoxin were taken from Northport Harbor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who consume a piece of the contaminated shellfish generally experience mild symptoms within 15 minutes to 10 hours. The symptoms include tingling in the face, arms and legs, followed by dizziness, nausea and muscular incoordination. In the most severe cases, muscular paralysis, respiratory failure and death can occur within two to 25 hours.

Biotoxins are produced by living organisms. Those found to produce paralytic shellfish poisoning are often found in the cold waters off New England and Pacific states, according to the CDC. Last year, elevated biotoxin levels closed significant portions of the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and off-shore federal waters to shellfishing, according to the state DEC.

The report is from Newsday, but unfortunately it leaves a lot of questions unanswered, particularly: Is this the dreaded Alexandrium red tide, which damaged shellfishing in New England last year but didn’t reach Long Island Sound?

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Night the Bat Flew Into Our Room

I woke up to the sound of my wife telling me to put the covers over my head, in the tone of voice she might use to warn me to be careful there’s an ax murderer in the room.

Gina said, “There’s a bat flying around.”

I was sure she was wrong but when I looked I saw it, swooping like a swallow, back and forth, from wall to wall.

“Don’t look! Get under the covers.”

I didn’t know what time it was except that it was the hour of night at which, when you’re awakened suddenly, you’re not sure for a second where you are. I could hear the bat hitting the walls and ceiling. It was a warm muggy night, the first time, I think, that we had slept with a window open, even though we were supposed to get thunder and some rain. I hadn’t put the screens up yet.

“Here’s what we’re going to do. Get up, stay low to the floor, keep the quilt over us, and get out the door fast.”

Oh man, I thought. Can that possibly be the best thing to do?

“We’ll have to sleep downstairs.”

It was hot under the quilt. It had been only a minute or so since we took cover and already I was dripping sweat. We lay quietly and listened, hoping it would go out the way it came in. I was tempted to suggest that we just go back to sleep and leave it alone, figuring that a bat in a room in the middle of the night wanted less to do with me than I wanted with it. Or, since the door was one step from the bed, we could just get up and out of the room quickly, without worrying about staying low or keeping covered. But there was that tone of voice. Even if I had had a plan that might seem acceptable, I knew arguing wasn’t going to work.

I said, “OK, let’s go. Let’s get out of bed and out the door.”

“No! Are we sure that’s the best plan?”


We lay sweating. I reached my hand out from under the quilt and grabbed my eyeglasses from the bed table.

I said, “Let’s go.”

We slid off my side of the bed, quilt over us. I turned the doorknob and we were out into the hall. Our kids, who are 13 and 8, were asleep. Gina went to tell them not to go into our room. I put on my garden clogs and stepped out the second floor door, onto the deck, and then onto the first-story roof, from which I would be able to see into our room. Lightning lit the sky, but it was so far away there was no thunder. Our room has three double-hung windows facing south and a large picture window that does not open facing west. The middle of the double-hung windows was open.

I did not see the bat.

I reached in and pulled the curtain all the way open and then opened the other two windows, so the bat could get out, if it hadn’t already. I wondered what the neighbors would think should they make the mistake of looking over. I’m 52 years old. My only garment, if it can be called that, were garden clogs. I was peering into my own bedroom window.

But the bat wasn’t there.

We went downstairs. We have a pullout sofa but the only way it’s comfortable for sleeping is if the mattress is on the floor, so we opened it, lugged off the mattress, and carried it to the living room. Gina headed for the stairs.

“Where are you going?”

“Upstairs to get a quilt.”

“We have a quilt. We hid under it when we escaped.”

“I want to get a new one, just in case the one we were sleeping under has bat saliva or bat urine on it. You don’t want to sleep on that.”

That last part was certainly true. It was also true that this wasn’t the time for an argument about whether rational people should be worried about bat saliva on their quilt.

We decided that one of us needed to go back into the bedroom to find the bat. I volunteered. Gina said I needed to get covered up. She brought me a hat – a green felt crusher – and a pair of gloves, big heavy fireplace gloves. She also handed me a broom, to fight off the bat, I guess. The gloves were sooty and too bulky, so I asked her to bring me a pair of regular work gloves. She asked if I wanted to wear my yellow rain slicker. I declined in favor of a cotton bathrobe.

In the room, I checked behind the curtains, behind the shirts hanging on pegs, under the chair and ottoman and bed. I looked at the clock: 1:30. By this time I was thinking more or less coherently. Fifteen or so years ago I had learned a lot about rabies. Bats carry rabies, although for some reason rabies doesn’t tear through a bat population and kill off almost all of the individuals, as it does with raccoons, for example; instead it simmers, never going away, never exploding, and only a tiny fraction of a bat population has the virus at any time. If you think you’ve been bitten by a rabid bat, it’s important to catch the bat and save it for testing. Otherwise you’ll probably have to get rabies shots, just to be sure. I closed the windows.

In the past 10 or so years, two young girls died in our county of a strain of rabies – and I’m working from memory here – carried by silver-haired bats. Silver-haired bats live in our area but their habitat is the woods, and they are not known to frequent houses. Neither girl had reported being bitten by a bat. Neither family had reported a bat in their house. But both girls died of bat rabies. That led to the conclusion, if I remember correctly, that it was possible to be bitten by a bat without knowing it. And that, in turn, led to the conclusion that if you woke up in a room with a bat, you had to assume, for the sake of safety – because rabies is fatal, once you show symptoms there’s no treatment, and death by rabies is universally considered one of the worst ways to die – that you were bitten, that the bat was rabid, and that you needed to get rabies shots.

But did that make sense? Rabid animals behave bizarrely. A bat flying around our room at 1:30 in the morning wasn’t necessarily behaving bizarrely; maybe it was merely disoriented and trying to find its way back out the window that we stupidly left open. The only part of my body that had been exposed was my head. Was I to believe that with all the other things it had to concern itself with, the bat had honed in on my head and bitten me and that I didn’t know it?

We agreed that we’d call the health department and our doctors in the morning.

I’d like to report that I had a nightmarish sleep, disturbed by dreams of winged mammals attacking me and my family in the dark. But the truth is, I slept great. At 9:55 I called the medical group and at 10 a.m., Dr. Hasapis, who was on duty on Saturday morning, called back.

I could almost hear him sigh when I told him that we had woken up in the middle of the night to find a bat in our room. He told me what I already knew about the seriousness of rabies (extremely) and about the likelihood that we had been bitten (not much). You need to get rabies shots, he concluded.

I called the health department’s 24-hour hotline and left a message. A fellow called back quickly and told me I’d hear from a doctor or nurse. The nurse, whose name was Jennifer, called. I told her the story and I told her the conclusion – that we needed to start the rabies shots.

“Not necessarily,” she said. “You have six or seven days to decide if you need the shots.”

“But it says on your website to start treatment immediately.”

“That’s if you know you’ve been bitten,” she said.

She asked about the bat. I told her that we hadn’t seen it since we left the room.

“Did it get out of the room and into another part of the house?”

I told her we were sure it hadn’t. She asked if we searched the room for it. Yes, although there were probably places where it could hide – we have closets and built-in shelves without doors. Check them, she said. Check the curtains. Check under the furniture. Check behind the books. Check in your shoes. She told me that a woman had once reported a bat in her baby’s room and later found the bat in a disposable baby bottle. If you find it, Jennifer said, try to capture it in something, a coffee can maybe, and then cover it and put it in the freezer to preserve it.

We cleared out all the shelves and closets. I emptied a bookshelf. We looked under a blanket chest and under the bed. We don’t keep many shoes in our room, but we looked in whatever was there.

Jennifer called back to double check that we hadn’t actually been bitten. A few minutes later she called again to double check that our children had not been in the room with the bat. I assured in both cases.

“We can decide what to do on Tuesday,” Jennifer said.

We did not find the bat but we thought it might still be hiding and we figured that, bats being crepuscular and nocturnal, if it was still in the room, it would emerge at dusk. In the twilight and then again in the dark we went out onto the deck and onto the roof and looked in the windows. The room was empty and silent. On Saturday night we slept in the living room again.

By now, our clothes are back in place, as are our books. The mattress is about to go back onto the sofa. We’ll decide what to do on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Wind Turbines Proposed for Buzzard's Bay May Be a Vision of Long Island Sound's Future

Prepare to get closer to your energy source. While Cape Wind, the proposal to put wind turbines off Cape Cod, seems to die and be revived with each passing week, a Boston-based developer is proposing a slightly smaller wind-energy generation project for Buzzards Bay. To me it raises an obvious possibility: wind energy projects for Long Island Sound.

The developer of the Buzzard’s Bay project is a fellow named Cashman (seriously) and he wants to put 90 to 120 turbines between the Elizabeth Islands and New Bedford. At its peak, the wind project would generate 300 megawatts (Cape Wind would produce 420 megawatts). According to the Cape Cod Times, he’ll file his formal application on Friday. (Here's today's Boston Globe account.)

In the meantime, Congress will soon consider a Coast Guard bill that has a provision that would allow the Massachusetts governor to veto Cape Wind. Senators Ted Kennedy and his unlikely ally, Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska, inserted the provision, knowing that Mass Governor Mitt Romney opposes Cape Wind. But there’s been a backlash, and the fate of the provision is unknown (certainly to me, anyway).

I started by saying, “Prepare to get closer to your energy source.” The Energy Outlook blog argues that breaking our dependence on oil will mean that we’ll have to accept that our energy will come from many, smaller generators closer to where we live. There’s already some kind of proposal by a company called Winergy, for turbines off Orient Point. How long will it be before we start to see plans for more elsewhere in Long Island Sound?

While we’re talking about energy, if you feel the need to read something that will make you sick, read this: General Motors is offering to subsidize gasoline prices for people in Florida and California who buy GM cars over the next couple of months. Now that might be an honorable way to create an incentive for the sale of small, fuel-efficient cars. But the vehicles that qualify for the subsidy aren’t small and aren’t fuel-efficient. They are the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, the GMC Yukon, a couple of Hummers, and the Cadillac SRX – gas-pigs all.

I understand the company is working on a new slogan: General Motors – Speeding the Onset of Global Warming.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New Urbanism and Old Urbanism

Although I live happily in a Modern house on three acres in the woods, I’m drawn to the ideas of the New Urbanists, planners and architects who reject suburban sprawl in favor of development that models itself on the best of our older downtown communities – Port Washington instead of Northern Boulevard, or Westport instead of Route 7 in Wilton.

This is partly an aesthetic bias on my part and partly an acknowledgement that compact development is better for the environment. It probably also creates better communities, although that too is probably a matter of bias.

The other side of the New Urbanist coin is old urbanism – the cities and towns that still work well, or that once worked well, as places to live and work. When I say “once worked well,” I’m referring to the many old industrial cities that flourished in Connecticut but are now struggling (and here’s where the environmental quality part of my argument breaks down: in the old days, those cities were environmental disasters because they developed before there were adequate sewers and sewage plants).

Bridgeport and Waterbury were both major brass producing cities, but for both, the golden age is far in the past. In Bridgeport, there’s a debate now over how best to use older buildings, and one thing they point to is the successful renovation of the old Palace Theater in Waterbury, which was renovated 18 months ago and has since drawn 200,000 people into the area, at least according to its owner.

Bridgeport has its own old theater – the Bijou, which apparently is the oldest theater in the country with a movie screen – and a developer is working on $15 million renovation of it and a couple of adjacent buildings.

Who cares about an old movie theater? The idea (or at least one of the ideas) is that if Bridgeport becomes an attractive to place to live, it might slow the pace of suburban development that sprawls across the landscape.

The Bridgeport Historical Society discussed the theater renovation and the re-use of other historical buildings at a forum the other night; a Connecticut Post account is here. The Times, coincidentally, has a story about Andres Duany, New Urbanism, and the Gulf Coast , here, and John Massengale discusses it on his blog, here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Outlaw Leaf Blowers

Leaf blowers should be banned, in my opinion. They’re vile, they’re noisy, and they emit greenhouse gases for a purpose that is frivolous at best. Considering the emerging climate crisis, you could argue that using gasoline to clear your lawn of leaves is even immoral. But I didn’t realize until I read this story, in today’s Greenwich Time, that a lot of communities – including several along Long Island Sound – have already banned leaf blowers, at least for half the year:

Cities such as Houston and Toronto, several Long Island towns, nearby municipalities in Westchester County, N.Y., such as Rye, Mamaroneck, Larchmont and New Rochelle, and Farmington and Mansfield all have instituted summer time bans on leaf blowers…

The context is an attempt by residents of Greenwich to persuade the town’s Board of Health to ban leaf blowers from May through September. The Board of Health refused, arguing that it was a matter for elected officials rather than a health issue. The town residents say they will pull together information to bolster their argument that it is a health issue and then return to the Board of Health. I hope they succeed and if they don’t, I hope they push a ban through the Board of Selectmen and the Representative Town Meeting.

Ban the leaf blowers!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Over the Weekend: Fewer Flounder Because of the Experiment from Hell, and other stories

Flatfish ... There was an interesting presentation at last month’s Long Island Sound Citizens Summit conference, in Bridgeport, about how global warming and warmer water temperatures seem to be resulting in a shift in the species that inhabit the Sound, from cold water animals to warm water animals. Flatfish were a prime example: Winter flounder are now rare but fluke, or summer flounder, are more common.

During the Q&A, I asked why that was important – why should I care if winter flounder were gone especially if summer flounder have replaced them? The answer was that there was no particular intrinsic reason to care but that lots of people like to fish for winter flounder, and so a valuable resource – especially a recreational resource – is being lost (lots of people fish for fluke too, but I didn’t pursue that argument).

Today’s Connecticut Post has a first-rate look at the winter flounder issue, written by Ed Crowder. He says over-fishing doesn’t seem to be a big contributor to the problem, mainly because fishing limits have been in effect for several years and the number of fish have remained low. Possible causes include warmer temperatures, predation, sewage and pesticides. Here’s what he says about water temperatures:

The average winter water temperature, tracked by the DEP in Waterford, has trended upward — from 34.4 degrees in 1977 to a high of 42.2 in 2002. Winter flounder go into estuaries to spawn during the winter, then emerge for a few months in the coastal shallows before heading out to cooler offshore waters.

If the water warms up earlier in the year, while the young flounder are still near the shore, predators such as striped bass may head in to feed on them, Simpson said.

"Part of life strategy of spawning in the dead of winter is to avoid predation," he said. "With subtly warmer water temperatures, those predators are able to come out earlier."

In 1989, I spent a good part of a day with Penny Howell and her crew from the Connecticut DEP as they used beach seines to look for young winter flounder. In more than half a dozen seines they averaged less than one juvenile flounder; a year earlier they had averaged nine per seine (I wrote about this in some detail in my book).

How rare have winter flounder become? Crowder says the fishing statistics tell the story:

Recreational landings fell from 1.3 million in 1984 to 4,484 in 2005.

At the Citizens Summit, one of the speakers referred to global warming as the experiment from hell. Consider that to be one of the results.

LI Development ... Friends of the Bay and other organizations held a protest march yesterday to express their displeasure with an Avalon housing development proposal for Oyster Bay. I couldn’t find any coverage of it in Newsday but the paper did find room for a story that discussed how wonderful it is to have new development on Long Island.

Don't Drive Over the Plover ... Block Island is ringed by amazing beaches, including plenty that are wild and unmanicured. They don’t attract many piping plovers though. In fact these tiny shorebirds, which are federally threatened, haven’t nested successfully on Block Island since 2000, which seems odd to me. The Block Island Times reports that a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist named Corrie Heinz has found two pair there this year:

For four years now, Heinz has been walking the beaches every spring, on the lookout for the small, sandy colored, black-ringed piping plovers, which are listed as a threatened species. She reports that there are two pairs on the island this spring. As well as the Crescent Beach pair, two birds are criss-crossing the upper sand at Charlestown Beach, looking for the perfect place to nest.

In the past 10 years, according to Heinz, plover nests have been discovered on three island beaches: the North Light Refuge, Charlestown and Crescent. In 1997, she writes, a nest was discovered at the refuge. Although the birds incubated the eggs for more than 30 days, the eggs failed to hatch. "Most likely," she says, "the birds were scared off the nest too often, leaving the eggs to be cooked in the sun."

Nests on Mansion Beach in 2003 and between Town and Scotch in 2004 also failed to produce any chicks. The last successful nest on Block Island was in 2000.

Charlestown Beach isn’t very busy and maybe the plovers will have a chance there. Crescent Beach is another story. Thousands of people go there in summer. All I can think to say is, “Good luck.”

Bargain Beach ... When I was a kid we went to an idyllic beach in New Jersey, on the Metedeconk River, an estuary of Barnegat Bay. The waves were gentle, which was good for kids, you could catch blue crabs, there was a picnic grove in the pine trees at the edge of the beach, a snack bar with a juke box that had lots of Beatles songs, and, for when you needed water, a pump painted fire-engine red. All for only $1 per car.

It made me think about whether there were similar inflation-adjusted bargains today. This website figured out for me that $1 in 1964 is worth about $6.04. A beach for $6.04? Not quite, but for a still-reasonable $15 you can get into Compo Beach, in Westport, on a weekday. The Boston Globe did a roundup of best New England beaches yesterday, and Compo made it as the best bargain.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Oysters Improve Water Quality

In the late 1800s, oystermen in Connecticut harvested and sold as many as 15 million bushels of oysters a year. New Haven alone had 125 businesses involved in oystering. Long Island’s bays had thriving oyster industries, particularly Manhasset, which was known as Cow Bay.

Nowadays of course the oyster industry is nowhere near what it used to be. In the early to mid 1990s, Connecticut oystermen were producing between five hundred thousand and a million bushels a year; now, because of two diseases, the numbers are down to about 100,000 bushels a year, and 72,000 acres of shellfish beds are open in Connecticut (this is according to the Sound Health report, which does not have similar numbers for New York, probably because New York doesn’t distinguish between the north shore of Long Island and the south shore when keeping track of oyster harvests; if any of my loyal readers from the state DEC can confirm this, please do).

What I don’t know the answer to is how many acres of oysters beds there are in the Sound that are not certified for oystering, or whether there is a significant amount of uncertified oyster beds at all.

I bring this up because of this interesting report, in Environmental Science and Technology Online, about researchers at Woods Hole and the University of Rhode Island who have quantified the amount of nitrogen that oysters filter out of estuaries in the northeast. (The much-maligned zebra mussels prompted their interest by improving water clarity in the Great Lakes.)

The researchers figured out that the amount of nitrogen entering Waquoit Bay, in Massachusetts, increased from 10,900 kilograms a year in 1938 to 24,300 kg/yr now. They also determined that if they plant oysters over 6 percent of the bay’s bottom, the oysters will eliminate half of that increase, or about 6,700 kg/yr.

That’s a significant percentage. Can it work on Long Island Sound, where communities are laying out hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade sewage plants for nitrogen removal?

I have no way of knowing, of course. I guess part of it depends on how much potential oyster habitat still exists. If there’s none, that means there’s no room for more oysters and you can assume that the oysters that are already here are filtering out as much nitrogen as possible. But if there’s unused habitat, it raises the question of whether there are places where oysters can be planted where they might have a significant affect on nitrogen concentrations, and on the health of the Sound.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Islander East Confronation. Lobster Cutbacks. Bird Calls. The Discovery of the Sandwich

Pipeline Confrontation ... People in Branford and in the Connecticut state government detest the idea of putting a natural gas pipeline from Branford to eastern Long Island, which is what Duke Energy and Key Span, in a partnership called Islander East, want to do. Things are so bad that a few years ago, when Islander East started drilling on Branford’s oyster beds, town cops arrested the contractor (the charges were later thrown out).

Another confrontation wouldn’t be out of the question next week when Islander East drills test holes into the Sound floor through the oyster beds. The state says they need a permit; Islander East says they don’t. The larger issue of whether the pipeline should be allowed at all is in the federal courts. The company plans to start drilling next week in preparation for the decision. The Hartford Courant wrote about it today:

Islander East, a partnership between Duke Energy and Key Span, wants to bury a natural gas pipeline under Long Island Sound, tying Branford to eastern Long Island, to boost power supplies to New York residents. Connecticut has been battling the project for five years in state and federal courts. With a key decision now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Islander East is rushing to finalize its design work so that work on the pipeline can begin this year, if the company wins.

Lobster troubles .. With lobster populations in trouble all over, Rhode Island is prepared to take drastic action. The state wants to limit the number of lobster traps in the water off Rhode Island to 800, limit the number of lobsterman to only those who can prove they fished there in 2001-2003, and allow new fishermen into the area only when the current fishermen drop out and sell their trap allotments to them.

The state lobsterman’s association supports the idea, but some fishermen complain that it amounts to the privatization of a public resource. Here’s the Providence Journal’s report, which as usual is excellent.

Bird Calls ... If you’re looking for something unusual to do on Saturday night, consider going to Greenwich Audubon. Scott Weidensaul, whose books about bird migration and endangered species are well worth reading, will be giving a talk and slide show there. Nothing unusual about that. But it will be followed by what the Audubon folks are calling a Nocturnal Migration Concert.

What would that be, you ask?

Here’s how Audubon’s Jeff Cordulack describes it:

Every year migrating songbirds fly under cover of darkness, issuing flight calls as they proceed. On Saturday night we will turn microphones to the nighttime skies and invite everyone to join us to listen to the sounds of these birds.

… RSVP for concert only. Concert fee $5.00. To sign up, leave message at (203) 869-5272 x239 or

Sunken Ships ... All that junk at the bottom of the Sound, the harbors and bays might not be junk at all. Researchers announced yesterday that they’ve found four Revolutionary War-era British ships in Newport Harbor. One of the ships is the Lord Sandwich, named after the famous inventor who, one historian says, sacrificed so much for his work that he scrimped on meals in order to save up to buy food to perfect his invention.

So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright

There are about 400 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in America. Should the one being built now on an island in Lake Mahopac, in New York’s Putnam County, be considered one of them? The Journal News reported:

Wright … drew plans for the four-bedroom home in 1951 when he was living at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The then-owner of the 10.37-acre island, J.K. Chahroudi only built a Wright-designed cottage, leaving plans for the main house stashed in a cupboard.

[Joseph] Massaro purchased the private island in 1995 for $750,000 and spent five years securing town approvals for the structure. He had to agree to forgo fire protection and school transportation from the island. The house is equipped with at least seven security cameras, and Massaro will have to haul the trash back to the mainland.

Chicago-area architect Thomas Heinz helped Massaro update the drawings to include energy efficient windows and plenty of electrical outlets for contemporary electronics including television and Internet service. The room sizes have been kept small just as Wright had envisioned.

But apparently if Wright didn’t build it, it’s not a Wright building:

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservatory in Chicago, which was founded to preserve the architect's structures, said there are about 400 Wright buildings nationwide, the majority of them homes. This project will be recognized as inspired by Wright, not as an original.

Here’s the Journal News story, which doesn’t include a picture. It does however have information about a $100 tour of the house. (The link appears to be dead; I've downloaded a copy of the article, which I'd be happy to send as an attachment to anyone who's interested; send me an e-mail and let me know.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Federal Money Might Be Coming Toward the Sound, and Other News

$25 million for land stewardship ... Rep. Steve Israel, of Long Island, held a press conference yesterday to tell reporters the news that he supports the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act, which is a huge surprise since he’s sponsoring it. The two co-chairs of the Long Island Sound Study’s Citizens Advisory – Nancy Seligson, who lives in Westchester County, and John Atkin, who lives in Connecticut – joined him. Here, in a nutshell, is what the act would do, according to Newsday:

The legislation would authorize up to $25 million a year to protect sites along the Sound. Some of the sites will be open spaces that the funding would help preserve. Others would be private property that owners voluntarily sell …

It didn’t pass last year – Tom DeLay’s anti-environmentalist protégé, Richard Pombo, killed it – but Israel thinks it has a good shot this year.

People love this statistic, by the way:

He pointed out that 10 percent of the people in the United States live within 50 miles of the Sound.

The truth is though that it’s meaningless. Ten percent of the population lives within 50 miles of, say, the Hackensack River too, but so what?

Broadwater update … There’s been little Broadwater news lately, so yesterday Adrienne Esposito, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, sent out this e-mail:

I thought you all would like an update on the Broadwater process. Here's the most up to date information regarding the timelines and hearings.

The US Coast Guard is predicting that they will release the safety and security report in the middle of June. This report will go to FERC and will be part of the Draft EIS. I spoke with FERC and they are currently planning to release the Draft EIS in August. They are also in the process of scheduling public hearings, most likely in September, but they are not yet scheduled.

The NYS Department of State has sent the Broadwater application back as incomplete. Broadwater is expected to resubmit their application to the state by the end of June. This means that, in accordance with the new energy act of 2006, the Consistency Ruling will need to be issued from DOS by December 2006.

Two new developments … Kyle Raban, at Friends of the Bay, is working to stop a big housing project by Avalon, in Oyster Bay. Their plans include a protest march on Sunday. More information is here and here.

Another big development is being planned for Storrs, by LeylandAlliance, a company I happen to know about and like. Basically, they’ve been hired to create a downtown for the University of Connecticut. Leyland is the developer for the Madison Landing project, which a lot of shoreline Connecticut residents don’t love. Here’s what I wrote about it last summer.

Geography lesson ... Where exactly is Winged Foot, the golf course where the U.S. Open is being held again this year?

This historic course lies across Long Island Sound from Manhattan Island.

That eyebrow-raising geographical description comes from a newspaper called the Daily Times, of Maryville, Tennessee:

Of course you could get in a boat on the East River, sail through Hell Gate and past Throgs Neck, and dock at Harbor Island (if Jim Mancusi, Mamaroneck’s harbor master lets you), and then get a taxi to Winged Foot, so I guess technically it is across the Sound from Manhattan. But it takes a different geographical perspective, I guess, to describe it that way.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Protecting the Family

I was waiting for my kids to finish their free ice cream after the Memorial Day parade several years ago when a neighbor told me a hawk had attacked her near our house. It drew blood when it scratched her head with its talons. I got the look on my face that means, “OK. Whatever,” but that stops short of conspicuous eye-rolling. She’s a smart but imperious woman who occasionally freelances for the New York Times, and I was happy to tell her I thought she was imagining things.

“That never happened,” I said, with an authority and matter-of-factness that surprised even myself.

Broad-winged hawks had in fact been in the neighborhood. I wasn’t sure where they were trying to nest, but I had heard their call, an sharp one-note whistle. For sentimental reasons I liked broad-wings. I remembered a day two decades earlier, sitting on a veranda at a conference center on Upper Saranac Lake and having the editor of Adirondack Life magazine nudge me, point to the sky, and say “broad-wing,” and then looking up to see a tiny silhouette circling above the lake. And later that summer I’d watch them swooping like swallows off the summit of Hurricane Mountain. So to have broad-wings as neighbors in the outer suburbs was a reminder that there was more to the out-of-doors here than watching the day laborers mow the lawns. But to think they were diving on people’s heads was ridiculous.

Two weeks later I was helping a friend, Tom Burke, do the annual Audubon Summer Bird Count in my town. We met early in the morning, near the end of my road. As I walked, there was a rush from behind and a slight feeling of wind and before I could duck, the broad-wing was flying up into the trees. Tom and I looked at each other with widening eyes. Within seconds he found the nest, in the crotch of a red maple alongside the road. The female was simply defending her turf.

A few days later it strafed me from behind again and when I turned to watch it, it turned and swooped at me in a frontal assault. Two other neighbors – one who had been biking past, the other jogging – were attacked and cut. Because the jogger wasn’t sure at first what had attacked him, he went for rabies shots, in case it was a bat.

I’m happy to report that although none of these folks liked being hit by a pair of talons, neither did they suggest that anyone try to get rid of the birds. The bicyclist made sure he wore his helmet, the jogger found another route. The woman from the Memorial Day parade quickened her pace and increased her watchfulness.

As for me, when a reporter from the local newspaper called to write a story* about all the fun, I made sure to tell her how sure I had been that the early reports of hawk attacks had been ludicrous. And how I had been completely wrong.

A week or so ago the phone rang. It was the wife of the bicyclist. Be aware, she said: I just ran along the road by your house and the broad-winged hawk attacked me. And the other day, when my son and I walked down to get the school bus, I felt that familiar rush from behind and looked up in time to see the hawk settle gently onto a branch. When it whistled, I smiled.

*(The article appeared in the Record Review, a weekly that covers our town, and I’ve used it for some of the details here.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Long Island Sound Might be in Better Shape this Summer. Or it Might be in Worse Shape. It's Hard to Tell. No, It's Impossible to Tell. We Think.

I’ve complained in the past that the quantity of coverage of environmental issues in general around here has been small and that the coverage of Long Island Sound’s water quality problems has been almost non-existent. So now the Greenwich Time finally gets around to writing about water quality and it makes me wonder if less coverage might be better.

See if you can figure out the point of this story.

To start, the reporter asserts:

Water quality in Long Island Sound could continue to improve if this summer follows the apparent cyclical trends that have been cataloged in the past. decade

But then, despite the cyclical trends (which he never refers to again), he hedges:

The factors that go into gauging water quality are complex enough that researchers find it difficult to make accurate predictions, said Matthew Lyman, an analyst with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

And he quotes Lyman as saying, quite reasonably, “…it's really impossible to predict…”

So in the first three paragraphs we learn that water quality could improve if the (mythical) cyclical trends continue but that it’s difficult to make accurate predictions. No wait, it’s not difficult, it’s impossible.

He continues:

Hypoxia levels during the past couple of summers have been relatively average …

So hypoxia in 2005 and 2004 was relatively average. Relatively average? Meaning what exactly? And then this:

The summers of 2001 and 2002 featured smaller areas of severe hypoxia, which came early but dissipated when it got unseasonably cold in August, Lyman said.

Except that the hypoxia maps (here and here), which Lyman compiles and which the reporter had easy access to via this webpage, don’t show any dissipation. In fact they show significant hypoxia in September 2001 and significant hypoxia in late august of 2002.

Next, we learn:

If cool temperatures persist, this summer could start with relatively good water quality conditions…

But (there’s always a but):

But some researchers, such as Alistair Dove, a professor at Stony Brook University in Long Island, predicted conditions will be worse this summer because of the mild temperatures in the winter.

“Some researchers” is a reporter’s euphemism for “I really only interviewed one person but other researchers probably agree with him and I need to make my story sound more authoritative.”

And finally, the conclusion:

Still, while a mild winter will likely give way to a warm summer, the weather in this area is known to change.

And the kicker quote:

"It's really a confluence of events that lead to these problems and make it real difficult to make robust predictions," Dove said.

So the Sound might be in good shape this summer or it might be in bad shape. It’s hard to tell. No, it’s impossible to tell.

Maybe instead of trying to predict the unpredictable, we should do something different: wait and see what happens, and then report it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bunker in the Bay, "Long Island Sound," Endangered Species, and Modern Houses

Bunker, Mossbunker, Menhaden ... Big numbers of menhaden have made their way up Narragansett Bay to the Providence River in recent weeks. This has prompted the Baykeeper, John Torgan, to call for a commercial fishing ban:

The commercial seining of menhaden in Narragansett Bay for bait is controversial. Many recreational fishermen object to the presence of the large seine boats all the way up into the city of Providence, scattering if not decimating the schools and ruining the fishing. Many recreational fishers also object to the sight of bycatch such as striped bass and bluefish in the seine nets. Some commercial fishermen, some lobstermen, and the management agencies claim that there is no Bay-dependent stock, that they are not being overfished, and that the seiners support recreational fishing through bait shops.

Whether these seine boats are significantly depleting the Bay's populations is a matter of debate, but it seems reasonable that we should draw a line somewhere to limit the scope of the commercial netting even if just to protect the recreational fishery. My opinion is that the seiners are overfishing the Bay's stocks already. Drawing a line from the Conimicut light to the Nayatt light and prohibiting commercial seining north of that line would be a great start toward conservation and effective management.

Let's Celebrate ... The DC Birding Blog notes that today is Endangered Species day. That reminds me that someone once clicked on my blog after Googling “recipe for bog turtle soup,” which I found rather alarming. Endangered Species day also got me thinking about the threatened or endangered species I’ve seen (some of these have been de-listed since I’ve seen them): bald eagle, peregrine falcon, least tern, roseate tern, piping plover, loggerhead turtle and Kemp’s ridley turtle (the last two were dead, one at Marshlands Conservancy and one in a freezer at the now-defunct Okeanos Ocean Research Center in Hampton Bays). Bog turtles are on my short list of the threatened or endangered species I most want to see.

The Sound ... There’s a sonnet called “Long Island Sound,” by Emma Lazarus, and a bebop song called “Long Island Sound” by Stan Getz. And now the Long Island Music Hall of Fame has its Long Island Sound Award, presented to … a DJ. I guess you have to be a Long Islander to have heard of him.

Directions to Modern Houses ... A fellow in Massachusetts sent me an e-mail late last night:

My wife and I have a modernist home near Boston that we soon will be renovating – working, we hope, with Toshiko Mori. We’re hoping to visit New Canaan later in the month (most likely on the 24th) simply to admire as many modernist homes as we can see from afar (without disturbing the owners). Collectively, your blog posts are the closest thing I can find to a guide to New Canaan’s modernist homes. We’re grateful for the pointers. Can you suggest other resources for locating these homes? If there isn’t such a resource, are you able to tell us which streets or parts of New Canaan would be good to visit?

We share your concern about not disturbing the owners of these homes . . . and we share your love of them and desire to see them. We regularly see people slowly driving by our place (which is on Moose Hill Parkway in Sharon, MA, and was the family home of an MIT trained architect, John Newell, who knew and was influenced by Gropius).

That wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten a similar request, and so I’m posting my answer. All you fans of modern houses take note:

Chichester Road offers some good views from the car; Laurel Road is good too but the views aren’t quite as clear. Edward Durrell Stone’s Celanese House and Philip Johnson’s Alice Ball house are near each other on Oenoke Ridge Road. The Hodgson House is on Ponus Ridge, across the street from the Glass House. There are a couple of interesting houses on Lambert Road and near the Silver Hill rehab center. And you can see the Gores Pavilion at Irwin Park. There are plenty of others too. Don’t trespass.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Short Lobsters On Sale Now. What's Dumber than Broadwater?

Short lobsters … New, bigger size limits for lobsters caught in Connecticut’s portion of Long Island Sound take effect Monday. Lobsters will have to have a carapace length of at least 3 and 9/32nd inches. The idea is that the lobsters will have a little extra time to breed before they’re caught, which might help the Sound’s lobster population rebound.

But there’s a catch. The law applies not only to lobstermen but to stores that sell lobsters. They will no longer be allowed to sell anything shorter than 3 and 9/32nd of an inch. That’s a problem for them in two ways: by Monday, they have to sell (perhaps at a bargain price) any short lobsters they have in their tanks; and in the future they have to beware of short lobsters coming in from Maine and Canada, where the minimum length is 3 inches.

The Connecticut Post has a story, here. And by the way, a “fisher” is a large, aggressive weasel generally found in the north woods. Whenever I read a sentence like this, “… the rules are aimed at helping Connecticut lobster fishers who thought undersized shellfish from out of state would hurt them,” it makes me groan. Fishermen is a perfectly good word.

A retrospective … The Journal News summarizes the “Sound Health” report, two and a half weeks after the report came out. (My own posts about the report are here and here.)

Dumber than Broadwater? … How bad of an idea is Broadwater’s proposal to put a liquefied natural gas terminal in the middle of the Sound? The Anti-Broadwater Coalition thinks it’s bad enough to mock with a “Dumber than Broadwater” contest. And there are prizes:

Weekly winners will receive a handsome and practical backpack, laughable for use in evacuating Long Island in the event of a Broadwater vapor cloud ignition. The Grand Prize Winner will be selected to receive dinner for two at the top-rated La Plage Restaurant, featuring the last view of Long Island Sound without a gas platform larger than the Queen Mary II and LNG supertankers delivering their volatile fuel. The Grand Prize Winner will also receive a fill-up for their car as a reminder of Long Island’s ongoing dependence on expensive foreign fossil fuels if Broadwater is licensed and a round-trip on the Port Jefferson Ferry so you can leave the Island quickly and return if there’s anything to return to.

Broadwater is serious and so are we. But, your creativity will keep Long Islanders smiling as we go through the scary Broadwater review process, currently before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington. Think of anything “Dumber than Broadwater,” and enter today.

Hmmm. Let me think … How about a nuclear power plant on the Sound in Waterford, Connecticut? Oh wait. We already have one of those.

New E-mail … Sphere readers who regularly send me e-mails should note that I have a new address: Both of you should change your address book accordingly.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Deeply Troubling and Business as Usual

I couldn't agree more with the one comment to yesterday's post about the 2005 New Haven sewage spill:

It is deeply troubling that no explanation of the cause of this large spill was ever made public. Thus, there is no assurance that corrective action was taken (facility upgrades and/or enhanced training) and therefore no reason to believe such a calamitous event could not happen in the future. One would have thought such a 'business as usual' approach to sewage spills was no longer acceptable in Connecticut.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Last Year's Sewage Spill Was "Serious and Urgent." So Where's the Big Connecticut DEP Investigation that Blumenthal Promised?

In this era of environmental awareness, low tolerance for pollution and high concern for Long Island Sound, take a guess as to what the penalty is in Connecticut for allowing 12 million gallons of raw sewage to spill into the Sound, closing commercially-productive shellfish beds in the process.

I raise the question because it was just about a year ago that 12 million gallons of raw sewage did in fact spill into the Sound, from a treatment plant in New Haven, forcing health officials to close shellfish beds, to make sure contaminated oysters and clams weren’t harvested and sold to unsuspecting consumers. The incident got scant attention from the media – the New Haven Register wrote about it, a New Haven TV station covered it, but neither followed the story after the spill ended, and no one else, to my knowledge covered it.

At the time I asked Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, through his spokesman, if any violations had occurred and, if there were, would penalties be imposed for the violations and for damages to natural resources.

Here’s what Blumenthal, through his spokesman, responded:

The sewage spill in the Morris Cove neighborhood of New Haven on April 30 is a very serious and urgent concern. I understand that DEP is continuing its active investigation. This factual investigation should provide a full understanding of the cause, nature and extent of the spill. We then will determine, in cooperation with DEP, what legal action under the water pollution laws may be appropriate. I am strongly committed to the protection of Long Island Sound from all encroachments and damage, whether from sewage or unnecessary and inappropriate utility projects. Long Island Sound is a precious and irreplaceable resource, and I will continue to fight to protect it.

Blumenthal’s spokesman is Chris Hoffman. I followed up with him via e-mail several times in the months after the spill. On several occasions he told me he’d check into it and get back to me. He never did.

A week ago Friday, on the first anniversary of the sewage spill, I wrote to him again. I sent him Blumenthal’s statement, to refresh his memory. I said:

To me, the key parts of the statement were the assertion by the Attorney General that the DEP was conducting a factual investigation; and that in cooperation with the DEP, the Attorney General would determine what legal action may be appropriate.

I would appreciate hearing about the results of the factual investigation and receiving any reports that were generated about it. I would also appreciate hearing about whatever legal action the Attorney General thought appropriate; if no legal action was taken, I would like to hear why.

Guess what Chris Hoffman responded? He asked me my deadline (I said blogs had no deadline but that I’d be posting something on Monday – that is, Monday, May 1) and he said he’d check and get back to me.

Guess what I’ve heard from him since?


So what’s with the investigation? Here’s what I wrote about five months after the spill:

Perhaps, in the best case, state officials are diligently doing their jobs and carefully looking into the incident, and that it really does take almost five months to figure out what happened.

Or perhaps they investigated and quickly determined that it was no big deal, that nobody did anything wrong, and that no violations occurred. That certainly was the state DEP's attitude early on, when an official was quoted as saying that mother nature would take care of the problem. I can understand why, if that were the result, they'd want to keep it quiet: who would believe that a 12-million-gallon sewage spill violated no regulations?

Or finally, maybe there never was a state investigation to begin with, and that Blumenthal said there was just because it's one of those things you say when you think you might feel some heat…

Twelve months after the spill, it’s easy for me to choose which of those alternatives I think is true: the third.

To me it seems obvious that in the aftermath of a major sewage spill, Blumenthal or his spokesman felt it necessary to make a statement. There is very little, after all, that Blumenthal does not fulminate about. You can find him expressing outrage about all manner of issues that he thinks are important to his constituents.

So in this case he gets credit for at least giving lip service. The Connecticut DEP, on the other hand, thought the 12-million-gallon spill was not a big deal from the start. Immediately after the spill, the DEP’s Dwayne Gardiner was quoted as saying he was confident "that Mother Nature will take over and correct the problem."

In other words: it’s just 12 million gallons of raw sewage; what’s the big deal?

So if the DEP thought there was no problem, why would they bother to investigate? Blumenthal’s mistake, apparently, was mouthing off about the seriousness of the spill and the diligence of the investigation. He probably should have checked with the DEP first.

Which brings me back to my opening question, the answer to which should by now be obvious:

In this era of environmental awareness, low tolerance for pollution and high concern for Long Island Sound, what is the penalty in Connecticut for allowing 12 million gallons of raw sewage to spill into the Sound, closing commercially-productive shellfish beds in the process?

Answer: there is no penalty.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Long Island Sound Cleanup Money is Not a Sure Thing Yet in Connecticut But CFE is Confident

The Connecticut state legislature finished for the year this week, and yesterday Connecticut Fund for the Environment sent out an e-mail with the subject: CFE Celebrates Environmental Strides Made During the 2006 Legislative Session. The next to last item on its celebratory list was “Water: Unfinished Business.”

The bad news is that the legislators, who in recently years have been severely under-funding the Clean Water Fund, and in the process jeopardizing the Long Island Sound cleanup, didn’t manage to pass the bonding legislation that include $50 million for the Clean Water Fund.

The good news is that the bonding legislation includes money for a lot of other projects besides the Clean Water Fund and that the legislators pretty much have to pass it. And CFE/Save the Sound thinks they will:

We expect the Bonding Package, which did not pass during the regular session, to be acted on during either a veto or special session of the General Assembly later this month. The bonding bill that passed the Finance Committee includes funding for two critical water investments. Bonding was included to fund improvements to dams, pumps and weirs that will restore river flow to the Shepaug River, while providing the City of Waterbury drinking water security in times of drought. This funding will result in an economic win-win in a legal battle that CFE has been a party to for nearly a decade.

Additionally, the bill includes major increases in clean water funding. State clean water funding was severely cut in recent years. These cuts nearly halted Connecticut’s progress in restoring the dead zone in western Long Island Sound, and stropped progress in putting an end to billions of gallons of raw sewage flowing into our rivers after a rainstorm.

“We urge the Legislature to continue its commitment to free flowing rivers and restoring the Clean Water Fund when it passes the bonding package later this month,” said Leah Schmalz, Director of Legislative and Legal Affairs for Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wind Power Off Orient Point

Is wind energy coming to the Long Island Sound area? Winergy Power, a company that operates a fish farm off Orient Point and has financial backing from JP Morgan, wants to put in some turbines near there to generate power from wind. Here's the story, from Newsday. My guess is that this won't lack for attention over the next weeks and months.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

No Go for the Clean Water Fund -- Yet

The Connecticut State Legislature passed a budget yesterday but Leah Schmalz of Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound tells me that legislators haven't yet approved the bonding package that includes $50 million for the state's Clean Water Fund (much of which would go toward nitrogen removal projects at Long Island Sound sewage treatment plants). Without it, the Sound cleanup will come to a halt, for the time being at least. Here's the most recent post about it, and it has links to earlier posts.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Over the Weekend: More Shellfish, Fewer Shad, $$$ for the Sound

Everything we have is living … Long Island Sound’s oysters might be starting to flourish again after years of fighting two diseases, one called dermo, the other called MSX. In recent years oystermen have hauled in only a small fraction of the 800,000-plus bushel harvest of 15 years ago, as you can see if you click here and then click on the shellfish link and then look at slide two.

But there are some good signs. Branford, for example, is opening 1,200 acres of new shellfish beds for leasing. And in Norwalk, there’s a fight over a state decision to grant a homeowner a permit for a new dock in an area that seems to be a good one for oysters. Here’s the link, from the Connecticut Fishing blog (which found the story a week ago in the Stamford Advocate):

Shellfishermen watched the state's oyster bushels drop from a high of 894,000 in 1992 to a low of 24,000 bushels in 2004.

Oyster beds have just begun to recover from the epidemic and are showing signs of a robust year, said Norm Bloom Jr., who owns Norm Bloom & Son shellfish company.

"The oysters are doing good. Everything we have is living, so the more areas and beds we can protect, the better it will be," Bloom said.

If that’s good news for the long term, the short-term bad news is that rain still washes enough bacteria and other bad stuff into the Sound to force the state to temporarily ban shellfishing at times. New York State just reopened beds in Oyster Bay, Cold Spring Harbor, Northport, Huntington, Lloyd Harbor, Stony Brook and elsewhere after last weekend’s rains.

Where are the shad? … It’s shad season. Bob Sampson Jr., writing in the Norwich Bulletin, takes a shot at explaining why the spawning runs of shad and other anadromous fish are so small.

Money for the Sound … The Sound Stewardship Act isn’t dead yet, apparently. If it passes in Washington, it would bring federal money to the area for land preservation and other projects to benefit the Sound. David Funkhouser reports in the Hartford Courant.
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