One of the last boats Norman Bloom and I visited that Friday is also one of the newer boats in the fleet. Little Growler is a fiberglass dredger built in the late 1980's. While somewhat smaller in size, the operation that takes place aboard her is more or less the same. She was working an area north of the other boats, and was much closer to the Connecticut shoreline.
"That area over there used to only have a few houses." Norm said as he motioned to the stretch of shoreline that extends from East Norwalk to Westport. He then went on to describe the slippery slope that follows this development. There is runoff from the roads; expensive lawns loaded with fertilizers; and soon there is a dock and a boat outside each home. "That was all 2-3 feet of water in there at one time."He explained.
I knew the area he was describing well. My summer job in high school was at Rex Marine in South Norwalk. Several times I had worked on customers' boats docked in the back yards along this stretch that Norm had pointed to. I remember thinking how nice the homes were, never once realizing that there could be a negative impact from them. I also thought back to something I had read in the book, This Fine Piece Of Water. Development is mostly decided upon at the local level. Each proposal, in isolation, produces a "small but acceptable burden of pollution". When combined however, the destruction is large.
Norm then went on to describe a group called Harbor Watch, who test and moniter the water quality around Norwalk Harbor. "They are always testing." He told me. There are also plans to relocate the groups' laboratory alongside his office.
Oysters feed by filtering suspended particles in the water, and the quality of water is essential to their existence. While harbors such as Norwalk may be cleaner than they were 30 years ago, the threats from sewage, chemicals, destruction of marshes, and development remain constant. No clean water, no oyster industry.
(More To Follow)
Hartford Courant: Saving The Oyster
Soundbounder: Fruits Of Winter (part one)
Soundbounder: I Love It Out Here... (part two)
Soundbounder: Mary Colman (part three)
Soundbounder: Lifting The Dredge (part four)
references: This Fine Piece Of Water, by Tom Andersen; Yale University Press; pages 172-73