Oyster Bay sues to stop Mill Neck Creek clam dredging

The town of Oyster Bay filed a lawsuit against a shore fishing company and a state regulator in an attempt to stop clam dredging in Mill Neck Creek.

The city attorney’s office electronically filed the lawsuit in Mineola State Supreme Court on Monday against Frank M. Flower & Sons, a private shore fishing company that leases the city’s underwater lands , and the State Department of Environmental Conservation which approved the Oyster Bay-based business permit.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent Frank M. Flower & Sons from using the permit that allows the company to transplant clams from Mill Neck Creek, an estuary surrounded by Bayville and Mill Neck, into four areas of the western port of Oyster Bay from May. 24 to 1 September.

“Activities under the NYSDEC permit would have irreversible effects not only on the clam stock, but on the breeding potential in the harbor generally,” the city alleged in its court filing. Disrupting the waters of Mill Neck Creek, a major estuary and spawning ground for shellfish, “would have devastating and permanent effects on the harbor in general and on the creek in particular,” the lawsuit alleges.

The office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James, representing the DEC, wrote in a May 25 letter to Judge Dawn Jimenez, who is presiding over the prosecution, that there is no urgency necessitating a temporary restraining order. Assistant Attorney General Max Shterngel wrote that the DEC said “authorized shellfish harvesting activity uses a method that has been in use for decades” and “the sediment disturbance resulting from such harvesting should resolve completely in a period of hours.

The permit allows the company to move the clams up to 80 hours a week to the West Harbor, where they would be left alone for 60 days before they could be harvested, according to the permit. The DEC would oversee the activities.

James Cammarata, attorney for Frank M. Flower & Sons, said in a statement that his client has been a responsible harbor steward for more than 135 years.

“Decades of peer-reviewed research have established that the sustainable shellfish farming practices employed by Frank M. Flower do not negatively impact the estuary and are in fact beneficial to the environment,” Cammarata wrote.

The nonprofit organization Friends of the Bay said in a press release that the DEC “neglected its responsibility to protect the state’s wildlife resources and habitats” in approving the permit.