New York’s secretary of state, Rossana Rosado, recently announced that $668,385 in grants have been awarded to fund 16 projects for Long Island municipalities to help preserve the South Shore Estuary Reserve.
The reserve encompasses the wetlands that hug the South Shore and extends 75 miles east from the Nassau County-New York City border to the Village of Southampton in Suffolk County.
“This funding will help to protect the valuable natural and economic resources of the South Shore Estuary by providing valuable funding to reserve communities for implementation of priority projects,” Rosado, who is the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council’s chairwoman, said in a statement.
The council was established in 1993, and is administered by the Department of State through the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Act. The act calls for the management and protection of the South Shore’s bays and the areas that drain into them. Funding is available through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. The reserve council comprises two counties, six towns, several villages, the City of Long Beach and different environmental organizations. There are 23 representatives in all.
The grants will cover projects that will be implemented in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The reserve council started collecting requests for proposals in March, and it began sifting through them in May. Each project was capped at $50,000, but municipalities were welcome to bid on more than one endeavor.
Competitive RFP process
After receiving 25 requests, the council approved 16 of them. In addition to efforts in Suffolk and one in Massapequa, the Town of Hempstead was granted $202,510 for six projects, the Village of Freeport received $100,000 for two projects, and the Village of Rockville Centre was granted $36,900 for one project.
Jeremy Campbell, the program implementation specialist for the Department of State’s Office of Planning, Development and Community Infrastructure, said the projects would tie into the state’s Comprehensive Management Plan. The plan, which was approved in 2001, focuses on the protection and improvement of water quality, living resources and public access in the estuary, as well as economic sustainability. It also emphasizes increasing education and community outreach for residents. Campbell called the CMP the “roadmap for improving the South Shore Estuary Reserve.”
“This came about as a need to help communities,” Campbell said of the grants. “The state thought that providing more funds would help these communities do some implementation projects that would help advance the Comprehensive Management Plan.” Campbell added that the projects would begin in early 2018 and likely be finished by late 2019 or early 2020.
Protecting natural resources
The work in the Town of Hempstead will include installing living shorelines with more natural features, instead of using bulkheads. “They’re looking to stabilize the shoreline,” Campbell said. “Wooden bulkheads are used, and oftentimes that’s not something that we typically support. They’re sometimes necessary, but looking forward in some areas where we can, we like to see a natural shoreline with plants that would help with resiliency.”
Other projects in Hempstead include oyster restoration and a study to look into how certain pollutants move through the ecosystem, Campbell added. Requests for comment by town officials were not granted as of press time.
In Freeport, a kayak launch will be installed at Waterfront Park, which will help kayakers access the water more easily. Operation SPLASH, a Freeport-based nonprofit organization that patrols local waterways and removes trash and other pollutants, will also be installing 37 catch basin inserts in sewers and drains to reduce pollutants in storm water.
Rob Weltner, the Operation SPLASH president, said that in the past 27 years, the group has removed more than 2 million pounds of trash from the estuary. He noted that 95 percent of it comes from storm water, and pollutants include garbage, pesticides, motor oil, cigarette butts and antifreeze.
Weltner described the estuary as a “nautical nursery,” which is where many of the fish that live in the ocean come to reproduce. “All the trash that ends up in the street is carried down the drains in the giant underground pipes and will flush their way into the estuary,” he said. “These catch basin inserts, they filter out garbage, oil, some nitrogen and things that don’t belong in that nursery.”
He compared the catch basin inserts to a strainer filtering out water. The basins come in different sizes depending on the width of the pipes, and are changed annually, Weltner said. He added that the filters would help clean the bays, which in turn would be good for the economy because it would lead to more people fishing, scuba diving, and boating in the bays, as well as shopping at surrounding marine suppliers. “All these businesses rely on clean, healthy bays and oceans,” Weltner said. “So, it starts right here. It starts with what we are putting into the bay.”
Work will also be done to install catch basin filters in Rockville Centre. In addition, Campbell said, there would be public education and outreach initiatives, called the Medallion Program, which aims to educate residents about where storm water goes when it enters a catch basin and to teach them about the importance of not polluting it. In addition, educational presentations will be scheduled.
“Once again, the Village of Rockville Centre is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to receiving grants and gifts to improve our community,” Mayor Francis X. Murray said in an email. “Funding from the state will be used to replace filters in our existing storm sewer systems that will significantly reduce polluted storm water runoff into the estuary. In addition, an educational outreach program will be developed and used to educate residents and business owners to become more aware on how simple changes of behavior can reduce the pollutants and pathogens from entering the estuary.”
The grants have received positive feedback from many environmentalists, including Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Healthy marine waters allow us to enjoy our island, preserve our maritime culture and maintain property values,” she said. “A big thank you to Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature for prioritizing water quality and advancing water protection initiatives.”