Now that Election Day has passed, perhaps East Hampton Town can return to the question of a new, centralized shellfish hatchery on a site off Gann Road at Three Mile Harbor in a less politicized atmosphere. Here is where the project is now, the problem and the proposed solution:
The East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery is really two facilities, about 17 miles by road apart. One, where the actual spawning takes place, is in an old building near Fort Pond Bay in Montauk. The other is behind the Marine Patrol headquarters and dock on the eastern side of Three Mile Harbor. The director of the hatchery has said that many small shellfish die while being carried from Montauk to grow-out sites, including at the present Gann Road site. Under consideration is consolidating the stages of growing small clams, oysters, and scallops in a new structure on a house lot the town bought with $2.1 million from the community preservation fund. At the same time, a house on that site would be converted to an education center and office space for hatchery staff.
Neighbors went ballistic. Residents of Babe’s Lane, a pitted dirt road from which the proposed site is reached, were strongly opposed, and the matter was sucked into the campaign. We are sympathetic to the residents nearby only so far. The end of Gann Road is otherwise known as the commercial dock, where large fishing vessels and Marine Patrol and pump-out boats dock, and baymen store quantities of gear. On the other side of Gann Road are Harbor Marina and a longstanding restaurant with one of the best sunset views around. Shellfishing, whether to make money or gather a meal, is a favorite activity for many town residents; a robust shellfish population is considered a good way to improve water quality. A better hatchery, producing more and stronger seed, is in the broad community interest.
All that said, the wisdom of the neighbors and users of the Gann Road commercial dock area should be considered regarding the placement of the new building. As to the education center, town officials must provide a clear case for it before plans go forward.