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Peconic Estuary Partnership

The Peconic Estuary system is located on the eastern end of Long Island, between the North and South Forks. The estuary includes more than 100 distinct bays, harbors, embayments and tributaries, including bays such as Flanders Bay, Great Peconic Bay, Little Peconic Bay, Shelter Island Sound, and Gardiners Bay.

A map showing the borders of the Peconic Estuary System

The Peconic Estuary Partnership (PEP) (leaves DEC website) is a cooperative effort between the state of New York State, Suffolk County, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the scientific community, and the citizens of the Peconic Estuary watershed. PEP's mission is to protect and restore the Peconic Estuary and its watershed. In 2020 a new Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) (leaves DEC website) was adopted. Below are the 4 pillars of its foundation.

  • Strong Partnerships and Engagement
    Partnership is an integral part of PEP. PEP's partners work together and play different roles in accomplishing the CCMP actions. PEP's strongest partnership is with local governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) because their work influences the estuary most directly. Engaging with people who live and work in the Peconic Estuary and watershed is also a big priority. It is vital to empower the surrounding community to get involved and act in support of PEP's mission.
  • Resilient Communities Prepared for Climate Change
    Climate change is one of the most substantial threats to the long-term health of the Peconic Estuary. Changes in air and water temperature, increased storm intensity and frequency, sea level rise, rising groundwater and ocean acidification are all potential risk factors. PEP is actively working to help reduce the negative impacts that climate change will have on the estuary and its wildlife. PEP monitors and protects essential coastal ecosystems such as seagrass beds and salt marshes. These ecosystems provide coastal protection from storms, act as nursery grounds for fish, and are considered "carbon sinks." The plants and sediments in these ecosystems capture and store large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere and ocean, making them an important part of the solution.
  • Clean Water for Ecosystem Health and Safe Recreation
    Clean water allows for safe recreation in and on the water as well as seafood that is safe for consumption. An excess of nitrogen in the Peconic Estuary has been one of the most serious issues affecting the water quality. Nitrogen loading can cause harmful algal blooms (HABs) and degraded aquatic habitats. Some other contributors to water pollution in the estuary are pathogens and toxic contaminants, which can make fish and shellfish unsafe to eat. Marine debris is an increasing concern due to its persistence and effect on the environmental, wildlife, and human health. PEP and its partners collect and analyze water quality data in order to identify problem areas.
  • Healthy Ecosystems with Abundant, Diverse Wildlife
    Physical alterations such as channel dredging, hardening of shorelines, and clearing of land, all harm the habitats and living resources in and around the Peconic Estuary. Critical habitats such as pine barrens, eelgrass beds, marshes, and diadromous fish habitat have all been degraded by these alterations along with climate change and pollution. PEP conducts scientific studies in order to better understand the Peconic Estuary ecosystem and how to manage it. The 2020 PEP Habitat Restoration Plan (leaves DEC website) identifies goals, objectives, and actions that guide habitat restoration over the next 10 years. Check out this interactive map (leaves DEC website) created by PEP and NYSDEC to learn more about all the completed, ongoing, and priority habitat restoration projects in the Peconic Estuary Watershed.