3.14.12 Watershed Action Plan

On Saturday, March 10, 2012, the Lloyd Harbor Conservation Board hosted a public meeting held at the Cold Spring Harbor Library regarding the Watershed Action Plan developed by Friends of the Bay (FOB) for the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Complex.  Patricia Aitken, Executive Director of Friends of the Bay summarized the 200+ page document and the goals and objectives of the WAP.  She reminded the audience that a management plan is essential to protect our water resources and to guide thoughtful development.

Ms. Aitken began the presentation by explaining that a watershed is the area which drains into a body of water, such as a stream, river, harbor or bay. When a rainstorm occurs, that runoff will pick up pesticides, herbicides, pet waste, wild animal waste, garbage that is disposed improperly, fertilizers, antibacterial soap residues,.  Anything that goes into a cesspool, septic system, or the ground, can end up in the harbors/bays of a watershed area.

Each harbor or bay needs to be studied separately because each one has different geographical features, and the use of the land surrounding the waterbodies is different.  Prior to developing a Watershed Action Plan, Friends of the Bay did a comprehensive analysis of all the existing environmental and land use conditions in the watershed area.  This State of the Watershed Report was published in November of 2009.  Watershed activities affect harbor water quality.  A Watershed Action Plan addresses current water quality impairments and provides a means to address further development in the watershed.  It is a science based, comprehensive plan.

The Watershed Action Plan was developed with substantial community input.  The plan set forth goals and objectives to be accomplished to better water quality.  Ms. Aitken explained these goals, and the activities being undertaken to fulfill them.  She stressed the cooperative and collaborative nature of the plan.  One of the objectives is the creation of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee.  This committee consists of the eighteen municipalities in the watershed, including the Town of Oyster Bay, Town of Huntington, Nassau County, Suffolk County, the City of Glen Cove and thirteen incorporated villages.  Another objective is to encourage regional collaboration between other environmental organizations on Long Island.

Water quality protection and improvement is a key objective of the Watershed Action Plan.  Friends of the Bay currently monitors 19 sites on a weekly basis from April through October.  Currently, Friends of the Bay monitors for dissolved oxygen, salinity, turbidity, temperature, Ph, coliform bacteria and nitrogen.  Expanding the program to include monitoring for harmful algal blooms, having a stationary water quality buoy, and determining the origin of coliform bacteria is envisioned for the future.  To ensure the quality of the data collected, and in order to allow other agencies to use FOB’s water quality data, FOB developed a Quality Assurance Project Plan in 2005.  The citizen scientist water quality monitoring program was honored with a Region 2 Environmental Quality Award in 2009.

Another goal of the WAP is  habitat protection and restoration.  Ms. Aitken reviewed the planned restoration of the Beekman Creek/Mill River area.  Currently, an engineering analysis is being done to determine feasibility and costs to complete this project, which would result in improvements to fish passage, the restoration of a creek, and improving connectivity in the western waterfront.  Sustainable land use and open space protection is also key to protecting and improving water quality.

Community education and outreach is an important component of the WAP.  FOB works to educate and inform the public regarding environment issues affecting the watershed.  Currently, FOB working in a collaborative partnership with the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee, Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee and Hofstra University, is working on a program to informe homeowners of the necessity to properly maintain their cesspools.    Many homeowners do not realize that groundwater and surface water are being contaminated by improper maintenance of cesspools and septic systems.  Everything that is put into the ground eventually reaches the groundwater and the watershed’s harbor.

The recurring theme of the presentation was collaboration, cooperation and partnerships, which will result in better water quality protection, an improved environment, and greater government efficiency.  For ways to help participate, or for more information, visit Friends of the Bay’s website at www.friendsofthebay.org.