Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve

The Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve encompasses one of the New York State’s unique estuaries and its 326 square mile watershed in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Home to 1.5 million people, the estuary is the anchor of the region’s tourism, seafood and recreation industries, attracting millions of visitors each year to enjoy its beauty and bounty. The State Legislature found it to be in the public interest to protect and manage the South Shore Estuary system as a single integrated estuary to ensure its long-term health as the foundation of the local economy and a natural and cultural treasure.

Estuary Characteristics

The Reserve extends from the Nassau County/New York City line eastward about 75 miles, to the Village of Southampton in Suffolk County. From south to north, the Reserve extends from the mean high tide line on the ocean side of the barrier island to the inland limits of the drainage areas.

Formed by barrier islands along the Atlantic Ocean, the estuary’s shallow, interconnected bays and tidal tributaries provide highly productive habitats and support the largest concentration of water-dependent businesses in the State. Commercial and recreational fishing and shellfishing depend on the health of the estuary’s fish and shellfish species which, in turn, depend on clean water.

Human population growth and burgeoning development in the Reserve continues to have a dramatic effect on the estuary, resulting in habitat loss and diminished public use and enjoyment. Nonpoint source pollution poses potential hazards to human health, causes the periodic closure of bathing beaches, and has forced the closure of approximately 34,500 acres of hard clam beds. The viability of traditional water-dependent businesses are closely tied to the health of the ecosystem.

The South Shore Estuary Reserve Council

The New York State Legislature created the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council and charged the Department of State with providing technical support to the Council. The Secretary of State serves as chair of the Council which represents diverse interests including those of government, commercial baymen, charter/party boat operators, the marine trades, sport fishing, construction, environmental organizations, and academia. The Division of Coastal Resources assisted the Council with development of the Comprehensive Management Plan for the Estuary Reserve.

The South Shore Estuary Reserve Comprehensive Management Plan

The Council adopted the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Comprehensive Management Plan(pdf) on April 12, 2001, marking a major milestone for Reserve communities, water-dependent businesses and residents. The plan provides a blueprint for the long-term health of the Reserve’s bays and tributaries, its tidal wetlands and wildlife, and its tourism and economy. The plan calls for more than 75 actions to be implemented over the next five years at an estimated cost of $98 million. This will be met from a variety of funding sources including the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, the Environmental Protection Fund and the Environmental Initiative through the NYS Department of Transportation. Comparable levels of federal and local funding will be sought, as well as smaller amounts from non-profit organizations. The support voiced by local governments, estuary-related businesses and non-profit organizations show that they are motivated partners committed to taking action to improve and protect the estuary Reserve.

Our office has established numerous partnerships to implement the Comprehensive Management Plan. Partnerships are in place with each of the six towns situated within the Reserve, with Nassau and Suffolk counties, with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and with several federal agencies. New partnerships are being formed with Reserve villages, the City of Long Beach, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, NYS Department of Transportation and several non-profit organizations.

The recently established South Shore Estuary Reserve office is working closely with our office and the Council's partners to implement the actions recommended in the Comprehensive Management Plan.