Long Island Initiatives
New York's Long Island Sound coast encompasses 304 miles of shoreline in Westchester, Bronx, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties and its watershed is home to nearly 1.5 million people. Accelerated demands for development, declining water quality in harbors and embayments, and difficulties sustaining a healthy maritime economy, led our office to develop a regional approach to address the coastal management issues unique to Long Island Sound.
The Long Island Sound Coastal Management Program (LIS CMP) (pdf) reviewed the coast from four perspectives: the developed coast, the natural coast, the public coast, and the working coast. Each was considered for its own intrinsic value, and its interrelationship with the other coasts.
The LIS CMP is based on public consensus and close consultation with the state agencies whose programs and activities affect the coast. It integrates the capabilities of state and local government into an enforceable program for the Sound. It complements the Long Island Sound Study Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, which focuses on water quality in the deep waters of the Sound, by addressing the upland watershed and harbor and nearshore waters.
Major Findings in the Program included:
Open Space: Within the next 20 years, the projected population increase in the Long Island Sound coastal area could result in near "build-out" under current zoning, eliminating many of the open areas that presently exist.
Natural Resources: Erosion protection structures have hardened fifty percent of the natural shoreline, and building continues near the edge of bluffs. The Sound's vegetated wetlands have been reduced by 25% to 35%. Nonpoint source pollution threatens the ecological resources and economic activities of the Sound's embayments.
Working Waterfront: There are over 193 water-dependent commercial and industrial businesses along the Sound shore, two-thirds of which are concentrated in ten harbors. Concerns include protecting essential services, such as waterborne transportation of sand and gravel; developing efficient passenger and cargo ferries; and improving petroleum transshipment and storage to protect the region's enclosed, shallow harbors.
Public Access: Only four major recreational facilities along the Sound coast are open to the general public. Increases in the size and number of docks interfere with public trust rights by obstructing access along the shore and the nearshore waters.
This analysis led to the development of a new set of coastal policies that provide standards for region-specific planning, regulatory issues, and community needs. The LIS CMP Policies consider the economic, environmental, and cultural characteristics of the Long Island Sound coastal region. They represent a balance between economic development and preservation that will permit beneficial use of and prevent adverse effects on the Sound's coastal resources.
Reflecting existing State laws and authorities, these regional policies take the place of the statewide policies of the New York State Coastal Management Program. The policies are the basis for federal and state consistency determinations for activities affecting the Long Island Sound coastal area. They also guide the development of new Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs (LWRP) and revisions to approved Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs in the region.
Major Recommendations in the Program included:
Three types of special management areas emerged from the analysis: Maritime Centers, Waterfront Redevelopment Areas, and Regionally Important Natural Areas. Not only do these areas represent the extremes of development—those places where development clearly should not be encouraged and those places to where it should be directed—they also form the framework for the work on the Long Island Sound:
Other Important Recommendations in the Program Included:
Maritime Centers focus on the working coast where State investment would bolster water-dependent commerce and industry. Such investments, combined with other incentives and regulatory streamlining, will mean the more efficient operation of harbors, while at the same time protecting and improving natural resources and water quality. The ten areas are Port Chester, Mamaroneck Harbor, New Rochelle Harbor/Echo Bay, City Island, Manorhaven/Port Washington, Glen Cove, Huntington Harbor, Northport Harbor, Port Jefferson, and Mattituck Inlet.
Waterfront Redevelopment Areas are where State efforts that encourage concentration of new growth to revitalize older urban waterfronts will be focused. Targeting investment in these areas will reduce urban sprawl, protect open areas, and reclaim abandoned public and private investment.
Regionally Important Natural Areas are areas with significant coastal resources that are sensitive to development. Here the State's priority is resource protection. Among the natural coastal areas are Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor, Crab Meadow-Fresh Pond, and Stony Brook-Setauket Harbors.
The regional approach to coastal management developed for Long Island Sound strengthens the State's ability to act, rather than react, to influence the future of the coast. The detailed regional analysis gives a clear picture of where State action will make the greatest impact on the largest number of people and solve significant coastal management problems.
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.
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 is 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 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.
The Division of Coastal Resources 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 the Division of Coastal Resources and the Council's partners to implement the actions recommended in the Comprehensive Management Plan.