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Peconic Estuary Program

The Peconic Estuary, situated between the North and South Forks of eastern Long Island, New York, was designated by United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an “Estuary of National Significance” in 1992.

The Peconic Estuary Program (PEP) is a partnership of local, state, and federal governments with citizen and environmental groups, businesses and industries, and academic institutions. They work together to protect and restore the environmental quality of the natural resources within the Peconic Estuary watershed.

The Peconic Estuary comprises more than 100 distinct bays, harbors, embayments, and tributaries and covers more than 125,000 land acres (196 sq. miles) and 158,000 surface-waters acres (247 sq. miles).

PEP is responsible for managing projects designed to protect and restore this magnificent ecosystem. NEIWPCC’s Joyce Novak is the Peconic Estuary Program Director; she supervises the program staff and is the principal spokesperson and advocate for the estuary program. NEIWPCC’s Elizabeth Hornstein coordinates the role of New York’s State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) as a crucial PEP partner. NEIWPCC’s Sarah Schaefer serves as Program Coordinator for the Peconic Estuary Program and collaborates with Suffolk County, an important PEP partner.

Together, they help municipalities and not-for-profits form partnerships, secure funding, and implement water quality improvement and habitat restoration projects – spearheading vital water quality and habitat management efforts.

Recent accomplishments and efforts include the following:

  • The PEP is currently revising our blueprint for protecting and preserving the Peconic Bays, the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP). It has been more than 15 years since the Peconic Estuary Program first released the plan to conserve and restore the Peconic Estuary. The process of revising this long-term plan requires the cooperation and coordination of multiple groups to continue to effectively improve the health of the estuary. The final CCMP is expected to be complete by December 31, 2019.
  • The PEP Management Conference’s adoption of an updated comprehensive plan that outlines goals, objectives, actions to guide habitat restoration and protection in the Peconic Estuary watershed over the next 10 years, The 2017 Habitat Restoration Plan and associated interactive Habitat Restoration Project Map. PEP is currently funding Conceptual Habitat Restoration Design Plans at four priority sites throughout the watershed and working closely with partners to restore habitat at various other project sites throughout the watershed.
  • With funding from NYSDEC, the PEP and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) are developing a Solute Transport Model for nitrogen in the Peconic Estuary. The completed model will estimate time-varying nitrogen loading rates to groundwater in the Peconic Estuary. The objective of the model is to understand historical and current nitrogen sources to the watershed and simulate the effects of possible wastewater management actions on estuarine loading rates. This is one of many nitrogen pollution mitigation and reduction projects PEP is currently involved in.
  • PEP is continuing to support and advance fish passage projects along the Peconic River that will result in full access to upstream habitat by diadromous fish. Until recently, the Peconic River had six dams along its length that prevented diadromous fish species from migrating up and downstream. In 2010, a fishway was built at the Grangebel Dam, and in 2016 another fish passage project was completed at the Edwards Avenue Dam. PEP is currently working on constructing fish passage at the Woodhull Dam which is the next major barrier to fish passage on the Little River, a major tributary to the Peconic River. Providing permanent fish passage at Woodhull Dam would create access to 95 acres of prime spawning habitat for alewife and American eel within Wildwood Lake. PEP is currently working with a contractor to complete the engineering design and permitting services for construction of a fish passage at the Upper Mills Dam. This project will open 40 acres of historic spawning and maturation habitat for diadromous fish.
  • Continued administration of the Peconic Estuary Homeowner Rewards Program to provide financial rewards for homeowners that add rain gardens, native plantings, and/or rain barrels to their properties.
  • Reinvigorating awareness and involvement within the local communities about the Peconic Estuary Program.

For more information about NEIWPCC’s involvement with PEP, contact Richard Friesner, Ph.D. at rfriesner@neiwpcc.org.

The Peconic Estuary Program can also be found on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.