Wetland Stewardship Program:
Suffolk County’s coastal marshes are of great importance due to their ecosystem services and natural protective features such as providing critical habitat for species of environmental and commercial importance, nitrogen removal, buffering coastal communities from the impacts of storms, and resilience to sea-level rise. Yet, the sustainability and resilience of Long Island tidal marshes, particularly those on our South Shore, are threatened by tidal restrictions, waterlogging, extensive mudflat and panne formation, and invasive plants. For these reasons a comprehensive wetlands management program was recommended by the Vector Control and Wetlands Management Long-Term Plan, under Resolution 285-2007. The County Executive recognized the importance of this program through Executive Order 01-2015, adopting the Suffolk County Wetlands Stewardship Strategy (WSS).
On January 24, 2014, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared: “Nitrogen is public water enemy #1…This nitrogen has been systematically undermining our coastal wetlands. After the barrier beaches our critical second line of defense against storms like Sandy is our wetlands…. If we are going to protect ourselves from future storms we have to rebuild our coastal wetland defenses.”
Current Wetlands Restoration Projects:
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency via Integrated Salt Marsh Management Grant:
In 2014, the County of Suffolk was awarded $1,310,000 under the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program to conduct a coastal resilience project via Integrated Salt Marsh Management to improve marsh services such as nitrogen removal, resiliency of coastal ecosystems and communities and to adapt to rising sea levels and extreme storm events. The project aims to restore four marshes (marshes, tidal wetlands) within the South Shore Estuary Reserve watershed, Suffolk County. The Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through the Department of Interior (DOI) Hurricane Sandy disaster relief appropriation (Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013).
This project uses an Integrated Marsh Management approach to restore and enhance environmental and socioeconomic services from currently degraded salt marsh areas affected by large areas of invasive common reed (Phragmites australis), waterlogging, extensive mudflat and panne formations, shoreline erosion and high mosquito production. The project started in 2015 with the planning and permitting phase. During 2017, 2018, and 2019, the County conducted pre-restoration monitoring of the marsh sites in coordination with students from Suffolk County Community College and the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences from Stony Brook University.
The implementation of this project includes four marshes within the South Shore Estuary Reserve watershed: Suffolk County Gardiner Park East and West, Timber Point marsh, and West Sayville Marsh. The first successful round of restoration took place in 2018 at the Gardiner Park East marsh, where vegetation recovery of mud flats is rapidly taking place. Reduction in mosquito production and need for aerial spraying the marsh by helicopter was also significantly reduced at the restored location this summer. As of October 2019, Suffolk County Vector Control staff started working on the restoration of the west side of Gardiner Park marshlands.
Tidal Wetland Restoration at Smith Point County Park to Improve Protection Against Flooding and Storm Damage – Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Grant:
On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused storm damage to several areas of New York State. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized federal public assistance to affected communities and certain non-profit organizations per FEMA 4085-DR-NY, and in accordance with the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974 (42 U.S.S. 5172) as amended; the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act (SRIA) of 2013, and the accompanying Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013.
The Department of Homeland Security-Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS-FEMA) is provided Federal financial assistance to New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (NYSDHSES), as Recipient, and Suffolk County, as Sub-recipient, was awarded funds through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) with the main purposes of restoring approximately 77 acres of marshland to improve natural protection against flooding, storm surge, intense wave action, and improve the marsh sustainability and resilience against sea level rise. The project site is the marshland at the Smith Point County Park in the southernmost portion of Shirley, NY.
The contract between the County of Suffolk and NYSDHSES started in July 2014. The Phase I, or planning and permitting phase was conducted between 2016 and 2019. It is anticipated that the implementation phase will take place during the restoration season of 2020-2021.
For more information regarding this important marsh restoration project and the corresponding Environmental Assessment Report, please follow the links below: