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Strategy for Addressing Loss of Intertidal Marsh in the Marine District

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the state's tidal wetlands program in protecting wetlands under the Tidal Wetlands Act (Article 25 of the Environmental Conservation Law), a tidal wetlands trends analysis was conducted by NYDEC. The analysis used color infrared aerial photography and geographic information system (GIS) technology. GIS technology allows geographic data, such as aerial photography, to be digitized. Through the use of GIS, a tidal wetlands line can be drawn on a scanned aerial photograph. This information is then checked in the field by marine biologists.

To date, the tidal wetlands trends analysis has shown that the regulatory program to protect tidal wetlands from the historic "fill and build" damage is extremely successful. In many areas, such as Shinnecock and Moriches Bay on Long Island, there is no detectable loss due to those activities. In fact, the wetlands have increased over 250 acres in Shinnecock and Moriches Bay due to the landward migration of the wetlands.

In addition, preliminary information suggests that the disappearance of intertidal marshes, at a lesser degree and rate, is occurring in other areas of the marine district (western and eastern portions of Long Island Sound and South Oyster Bay). This discovery makes it prudent to develop an overall strategy for addressing this important natural resource management issue and for communicating findings and implications. Because intertidal marsh is critical to estuarine productivity and New York State has lost much intertidal marsh historically, it is essential to give priority attention to the assessment of the problem marine-district-wide, and develop remediation/restoration/research and monitoring strategies where possible and necessary. Tidal wetland losses have been recorded in Jamaica Bay and a strategy for addressing wetland loss in this area has also beeen developed. Tidal wetland losses have also been documented in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.

Model for Addressing the Problem

DEC recommends that the following be undertaken.

  1. Conduct/continue tidal wetlands trends analysis for the entire marine district. This would involve an analysis of historic surveys, maps, and aerial and ground photography as well as new aerial photography. This information would be scanned into a Geographic Information System. (initiate 2002 - 2007).
  2. Where significant (greater than 10% total) losses occur (initiate 2003 - 2008):
    • conduct research to determine the causes.
    • initiate pilot demonstration marsh restoration projects in areas where efforts to minimize causes of loss are coincidently sought.
    • monitor and evaluate demonstration projects and efforts to minimize causes of loss. Use information to modify research efforts to determine the causes and to modify active demonstration projects.
  3. Where determined feasible, initiate full scale remediation and restoration. This would also involve monitoring and evaluation (initiate 2004 - 2009).
  4. While an overall marine district effort is undertaken for the trends analysis, a few focus areas should have expedited wetlands trends analysis performed. Lost wetlands have been identified but not quantified for the following areas: South Oyster Bay, Hewlett Bay, East Bay, Middle Bay, Manhasset Bay, Mt. Sinai Harbor, Flax Pond, Head of the Harbor, Nissequogue River, and Shinnecock Bay.
    • perform an expedited trends analysis for these ten focus areas. This will include photo interpretation, field checks and quantitatively estimating changes in intertidal marshes.
    • evaluate significance of loss and explore causes of loss.
  5. Continue already funded wetlands trends analysis for New York City and Westchester County and ascertain significant loss.
  6. Seek additional partners and sources of funds to undertake above activities, especially to speed up the process.
  7. DEC believes that Tidal Wetlands management should be part of a watershed based (i.e., estuary-wide) resource management program. In New York's marine waters, management focus should be in: (a) Long Island Sound, (b) Peconic Estuary, (c) South Shore Estuarine Reserve, and (d) New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary management programs. These are established and coordinated partnership efforts. Since proposed activities are already funded and being undertaken in the Hudson River Estuary, this area was omitted from this strategy.
  8. DEC will seek agreements with each of the above management programs to develop a comprehensive estuarine habitat management plan, which includes the following:
    • assessment of trends, including tidal wetlands trends (historic and contemporary).
    • restoration plan for important habitat types and an identification of individual habitats determined to be in need of restoration through the trends assessment process.
    • commitment to long-term monitoring of habitat conditions and trends.
    • identification of research needs and to address them.
    • development of quantitative success objectives to evaluate restoration and the program.

Strategies for Addressing the Marsh Losses Elsewhere in the Marine District

DEC will do the following:

  1. Work with the identified partners, government and non-government organizations, in each specific estuary management program, to develop a comprehensive habitat management plan (which includes a tidal wetlands trends assessment and restoration plan).
  2. Secure buy-in and willingness to support this overall strategy for primary common partners: NYS Department of State, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York Sea Grant, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and New York City Parks.
  3. Secure funding for tidal wetlands trend analysis from federal, state and private sources. Current priorities are the following:
    • South Shore Estuarine Reserve
    • Long Island Sound - north shore harbors
    • Peconic Bay
  4. Secure research funds for causes of losses. Current priorities are:
    • Jamaica Bay
    • Long Island Sound north shore harbors
  5. Identify appropriate partners and landowners and seek funding for restoration and correction of causes where and when appropriate.

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    East Setauket, NY 11733
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