Georgica Pond Opened to Ocean

Georgica Pond was opened for the first time in a year on Thursday morning. James Grimes

The East Hampton Town Trustees, who manage many of the town's beaches, waterways, and bottomlands on behalf of the public, oversaw the opening of Georgica Pond to the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday morning.

Though the pond is typically let on a biannual basis, in the spring and fall, there was no spring opening this year due to weather conditions and an earlier than anticipated arrival of federally protected shorebirds.

As a consequence, the pond's water level was particularly high in the spring, prompting some pondfront property owners, fearful of flooding, to plead with the trustees to open it. Their fears that conditions were ripe for another bloom of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, were realized when that toxic algae reappeared in June. Unlike in recent years, however, the bloom dissipated quickly, possibly a result of measures taken by Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences on behalf of the trustees and Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation, a group of pondfront property owners that has funded Dr. Gobler's research and acted on his recommendations.

Over two and a half to three hours, a cut was excavated from the southern edge of the pond to the ocean, a span of approximately 300 feet, according to Bill Taylor, a deputy clerk of the trustees who was onsite. "The beaches have built up so much this summer, especially since the storms passed by," said Francis Bock, the trustees' clerk, or presiding officer. "But they also built up a mound in front, so they had to get through that."

"It went off without a hitch," said Jim Grimes, a trustee who was also on the scene. "Hopefully the cut stays open for a while. It got a nice start. There was still an outgoing tide when it breached about 11:30, and we still had a few more hours of tide going out. The first tide cycle will tell you whether it will stay open or not."

Priscilla Ratazzi Whittle, a member of the Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation, witnessed the opening along with Annie Gilchrist Hall, another pondfront property owner, and Sara Davison, the foundation's executive director. "We cheered when the water started gushing out of the pond," she said. "I observed quite a few minnows being flushed out into the ocean, and also quite a few crabs. There were quite a few seagulls feasting on the minnows." East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell was also at the scene, she said.

A perceptible difference in the pond's height was apparent within 15 minutes of the letting, Mr. Grimes said, as the water flowed toward the ocean. "You probably have water coming in now," he said around 3:45 p.m. "I saw a significant number of crabs and bait heading out, and there will probably be a significant number of crabs and bait coming back in."
 

James Grimes
James Grimes