Pursuant to the New York State Environmental Conservation Law 13-0302 and authorized under the Laws of New York 2004, Chapter 425 (2004 Leasing Law), the State of New York ceded to Suffolk County underwater lands in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay seaward of 1,000 feet from the high water mark for the purpose of shellfish cultivation.
The Peconic Estuary has approximately 158,000 acres of surface water area. The area ceded to the County consists of approximately two thirds of the open water in the estuary, approximately 110,000 acres, which is naturally divided by peninsulas and islands into a series of interconnected embayments. Before leasing by the County could take place, the 2004 Leasing Law required the County to establish a shellfish cultivation zone (area where leasing would occur); as well as develop and adopt regulations that would govern the leasing process and overall administration of the program.
To assist with the development of the Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay (Lease Program), under Executive Order No. 44-2005 and 45-2005, the County Executive established the Aquaculture Lease Program Advisory Committee (ALPAC). The ALPAC consisted of members representing government agencies, private aquaculture interests, commercial fishermen, regulatory agencies, and other individuals/entities associated with the Peconic Estuary. This committee was charged with advising the County Executive on the development of a lease program that would be in accord with the requirements of the 2004 Leasing Law. ALPAC meetings were generally held once and month and were open to the public; each meeting included a public session in which public comments were accepted. The stakeholder and public comments were in addition to the public review required under SEQRA, and provided valuable input into the development of the Lease Program and required Shellfish Cultivation Zone.
After a rigorous four year development process, which included the completion of SEQRA, the conduct of 21 ALPAC meetings and two public hearings, Local Law 25-2009 adopted the Suffolk County Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay (Lease Program). Below is a table that contains a complete inventory of all notices, meetings, agendas, meeting summaries and other information, which were integral in the development of the Lease Program and Shellfish Cultivation Zone maps. Additionally, links to PDF’s of the draft maps and various revisions/modifications, which were developed during this four year period and eventually resulted in the 2009 Shellfish Cultivation Zone and Aquaculture Lease Sites maps are provided below the table.
A complete description of all aspects of the Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay that at was adopted in August of 2009 is contained in the Lease Program Management Plan. This document was prepared under Capital Project No. 7180.110 by the Suffolk County Department of Planning and its environmental consultant - Cashin Associates, P.C. - with extensive input from the Suffolk County Department of Law on the required local law; and assistance from the Division of Real Estate, Suffolk County Department of Environment and Energy, on underwater land survey requirements and title searches. The adopted Lease Program incorporated the activities of existing aquaculturists operating under the purview of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation while accommodating new entrants into the system. In addition to addressing the access needs of existing shellfish aquaculturists, the Lease Program also sought to accommodate growth in the industry at a moderate and predictable growth rate by including a provision which limited the amount of “new” lease acreage that could be leased during the first ten years of the Lease Program. The Shellfish Cultivation Zone map, met all criteria in the 2004 Leasing Law and showed the area within which shellfish leases may be issued. A total of 600 acres could have been leased by the tenth year of program implementation. The Lease Program Management Plan, which included the Administrative Guidance document, Map 1: Shellfish Cultivation Zone and Map 2: Aquaculture Lease Sites, were instrumental in the administration of the Lease Program from 2009-2019.