Patricia Aitken, Executive Director of Friends of the Bay announced the completion of a Watershed Action Plan for the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Estuary and Watershed. “Our organization has a proud heritage of being a voice for the marine environment. Friends of the Bay is looking to the future, to watershed planning and restoration projects and the continuation and expansion of our water quality monitoring program.” President Roosevelt himself made a special appearance at the Conference, remarking how pleased he was to see the completion of this plan, and what a fitting birthday present it was for him. President Roosevelt said that “ I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural use the natural resources of our land, but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”
Ms. Aitken commented on the great natural beauty of the harbor and its many natural attributes – “It is a State designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat, an Outstanding Coastal Area, a Long Island Sound Study Stewardship Site, a National Wildlife Refuge and is designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. Within this watershed is the internationally renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a Presidential home and gravesite, the first Audubon songbird sanctuary in the nation, Planting Fields and Bailey Arboretum, the Oyster Bay Historic Society, Raynham Hall and the train station used by President Roosevelt. It is home to a sustainable shellfish industry, supplying up to 90% of New York State’s oysters and 35% of the hard clams. For a small area, there is an incredible diversity of history and culture. We at Friends of the Bay take our responsibility as a guardian of this watershed very seriously. We feel we have a responsibility not just to the local community, but indeed to the nation. To be here, at the western waterfront where we started as an organization almost 25 years ago is an acknowledgement of our proud heritage as a voice for the environment. Friends of the Bay is looking to our future, to watershed planning and restoration projects and the continuation and expansion of our water quality monitoring program.”
New York State Senator Carl Marcellino expressed how proud he was of the work Friends of the Bay has done in spearheading the completion of the Watershed Action Plan, and that he looks forward to continuing to work with Friends of the Bay in protecting our natural resources.
The Watershed Action Plan recommended ten priority actions to be undertaken that are most critical to the success of the plan and will have the greatest benefit to water resource conditions in the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Complex and its watershed.
- A Protection Committee, composed of the 18 municipalities within the watershed is in formation. Intermunicipal protection committees are very effective in encouraging watershed wide actions to protect water quality and the environment at the municipal level. By combining the resources of local municipalities and an independent non profit, greater efficiency in government can be attained, as well as better protection for the environment.
- A blueway, or kayak trail, is being designed for Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbors. This trail will encourage environmentally friendly recreational and cultural tourism, which will help to bring money to our local businesses.
- The Long Island Sound Study just last week awarded funding for the engineering design for phase one of the restoration of Mill River – Beekman Creek. This will provide habitat restoration, fish passage, public access, as well as environmental educational opportunities in Oyster Bay.
“When the Town spearheaded the formation of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee in 2010 to bring together all of the municipalities and other stakeholders to develop a coordinated approach to the management and protection of this valuable environmental resource, one of the committee’s primary responsibilities was to support Friends of the Bay in the development of the Watershed Action Plan” Oyster Bay Town Receiver of Taxes James J. Stefanich said. “Now that the plan is complete, the committee will work with Friends of the Bay in implementing the projects outlined in the plan. As one of the last viable shellfishing harbors on Long Island, Oyster Bay Harbor has helped shape the local economy, culture and history. The Town has already been very proactive in implementing projects designed to help protect and enhance this invaluable resource for future generations. The Watershed Action Plan will serve as a blueprint for future actions. The Town looks forward to applying the combined knowledge, resources and talents of Friends of the Bay and the other members of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee to fulfilling the plan’s goals.”
“The Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Complex is one of the jewels of the Long Island Sound ecosystem,” said Mark Tedesco, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Office. “The Watershed Action Plan provides a blueprint for its protection and enhancement for future generations.” The Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Complex is the cleanest estuary in western Long Island Sound and is a vital ecological, economic and recreational resource. Friends of the Bay recognized the need to address the water resource issues of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor estuary complex using a watershed based approach. This Watershed Action Plan was developed in two phases – a State of the Watershed Report and Watershed Action Plan, following an approach endorsed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources for developing watershed-based plans.
“Experience has shown that an effective effort to protect the sensitive natural resources in our surface waters requires planning on a watershed basis,” said Peter A. Scully, Regional Director for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “The value of the important water quality monitoring work performed by Friends of the Bay is well-recognized, but the Watershed Action Plan has taken the group to a whole new level. Collaboration between stakeholder groups and government agencies is of critical importance, and the formation of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee should help to shift efforts to protect this important harbor complex into high gear.”
Funding for the Watershed Action Plan and State of the Watershed Report was received from the Long Island Community Foundation, Rauch Foundation, Town Of Oyster Bay and the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, as well as private donors to Friends of the Bay. This funding structure represents an effective and efficient leveraging of private and government funding to accomplish on the ground environmental work. Last week the Long Island Sound Futures Fund announced that 39 grants totaling $1.6 million were awarded to state and local government and community groups . The grants Friends of the Bay received total $46,440, which will be matched by Friends of the Bay with an amount of $123,325 in cash and donated services. Because the Watershed Action Plan was developed consistent with State and Federal guidance for the development of watershed based plans, implementation projects under this plan can be considered for funding under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act and will improve the chances for funding through other State and Federal sources.
The Watershed Action Plan is comprehensive in its description of existing water quality and watershed conditions, including assets, impairments and threats, as well as in its identification and prioritization of actions needed to protect and restore water resource. “The Watershed Action Plan provides a framework that will help watershed groups – such as Friends of the Bay, the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee, and the watershed municipalities – work cooperatively to protect and restore water resource conditions in the estuary complex and within the watershed itself. Completion of the Action Plan, together with the creation of a Protection Committee, marks an important milestone that will enhance grant funding opportunities for implementation projects in the watershed” stated Eric Mas of Fuss and O’Neill, the consulting firm who prepared the Watershed Action Plan and State of the Watershed Report.
Comprehensive regional watershed based planning helps protect embayments, wetlands and watershed resources. It ensures that valuable and sensitive natural resources are identified and protected through a proactive process that provides for appropriate development and land conservation in a given drainage area. Mitigation of stormwater pollution and treatment of sewage are examples of watershed-related issues that cut across jurisdictional boundaries. For this reason, intermunicipal cooperation, consistency and coordination are essential elements of effective watershed based planning and natural resource protection