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NYS Department of State releases new plan to improve conditions along Long Island’s South Shore waterways

Posted on September 21, 2022

Long Island has more than 70 miles of South Shore bays often teeming with boats. However, water quality has been declining for years, impacting fishing and recreation.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, New York state on Monday released a new comprehensive plan — a call to action to restore these struggling waterways.

South Shore waterways between Long Island’s mainland and its barrier islands have been dumped on for decades. Nitrogen runoff and aging cesspools have caused harmful algae blooms. Litter detracts from the seascape. Shellfish have disappeared.

“We treat the bays like a bottomless bank we keep making withdrawals from, but we don’t put any money back in the bank and can’t just keep taking and taking the expect the bay to survive,” said Rob Weltnew of the group Operation Splash.

There is now a plan to restore and preserve. The Department of State, which oversees coastal management, released a comprehensive management plan of the South Shore Estuary Reserve, covering the 70 miles of bays from Atlantic Beach to Shinnecock. It’s being touted as a blueprint for the future.

“Look around. It’s gorgeous here. It really is our marching orders. It really does speak to what we need to do and how much work we have had behind us and what we are doing next,” said Kisha Santiago-Martinez, deputy secretary of the Department of State.

In the 20 years since the first comprehensive plan, much has changed. The new plan recognizes climate change with a better understanding of the harm from nitrogen and outdated septic systems.

The updated to-do list includes analyzing water samples for new pollutants and micro plastics, restocking shellfish, and protecting sea turtles.

“And it will make more launch sites for people like me to get the kayak out and the paddleboard out to allow for greater public access and a better experience,” said Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Due to climate change, there is more carbon dioxide in the water. That makes it more acidic and less hospitable to shellfish.

“Climate change is exacerbating all of those impacts, so now is the time to really double down and work harder,” said Alison Branco of the Nature Conservancy.

Local officials are hopeful infrastructure money from Washington and through bond issues will turn the plan into action.

“Plans are good. Money to implement them are even better,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said.

The plan will be used by government advocates and academia.

It’s a roadmap for a treasured waterway.

The release of the plan coincides with Climate and National Estuaries Week.



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