A New Plan to Protect the Peconic

Posted on Friday, November 27th, 2020 | Posted in News

Stronger Partnerships Can Drive Improvement

Climate change, nitrogen pollution, and other threats to water quality including loss of shoreline wetlands are some of the challenges facing the Peconic Estuary. Partnership will be key to addressing these issues—a message delivered loud and clear throughout the Peconic Estuary Partnership’s (PEP) new management plan.

Released at the end of October, the plan will guide PEP in carrying out its mission to protect and restore the Peconic Estuary and its watershed, with a rededicated focus on cultivating relationships with new and existing partners. This collaborative approach is reflected in the organization’s name change in the spring, from Peconic Estuary “Program” to “Partnership.”

“It is our partnerships that bring positive change and will usher in the next decade of clean water and healthy habitats,” said PEP Program Director Joyce Novak.

PEP aims to strengthen its role as a facilitator between government and nongovernment entities who each play a part in protecting the watershed. Strong partnerships and engagement is the first of the four new goals around which PEP will organize their work. A stronger network will reinforce PEP’s other goals, which include resilient communities prepared for climate change, clean waters for ecosystem health and safe recreation, and a healthy ecosystem with abundant, diverse wildlife.

A “Road Map” for the Next Decade

The Peconic Estuary lies between Long Island’s north and south forks. The Nature Conservancy named the estuary “one of the last great places in the Western Hemisphere.” But decades of human activity have polluted and disrupted the habitat in the watershed.

Climate change, hardened shorelines, land development, nitrogen, other pollutants from land activities (including PFAS, pathogens, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals), threatened scallop populations, declining eelgrass beds, and harmful algal blooms are the main challenges facing the watershed, according to PEP.

The Peconic Estuary Partnership is one of 28 National Estuary Programs funded under the Clean Water Act and is a NEIWPCC program partner. With support from NEIWPCC, PEP updated the plan for the first time since 2001. The more than two-year process resulted in a detailed framework to address these issues over the next ten years, starting with their four goals, then branching out into eight objectives and 35 action items.

NEIWPCC Executive Director Susan Sullivan called the plan “a clear, ambitious road map that will help PEP galvanize positive change in the Peconic and beyond—through strong science, inclusive community engagement, and collaborative planning.”

Part of the plan focuses on engaging the people who live, work, and play within the watershed and increasing community awareness.  Some actions focus on strengthening PEP by re-evaluating the program’s organizational structure and financial planning. Other parts focus on new research, like analyzing pollution sources, quantifying the resource-value of the Peconic, and protecting and monitoring key species and habitat areas. Another aim in the plan is to mitigate the effects of climate change.