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South Shore Estuary Reserve

The Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve (link leaves DEC website) encompasses one of New York State's most diverse estuaries and its 326 square mile watershed in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The Reserve extends from the Queens/Nassau County line eastward about 75 miles to the Village of Southampton in Suffolk County. From south to north, the Reserve extends from the mean high tide line on the ocean side of the barrier island to the inland limits of the estuary's watershed. The Reserve's shallow, interconnected bays and tidal tributaries provide highly productive habitats and support the largest concentration of water-dependent businesses in the State. Home to 1.5 million people, the Reserve is the anchor of the region's tourism, seafood, and recreation industries, attracting millions of visitors each year to enjoy its beauty and bounty.

The Reserve was created by the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Act, enacted by the New York State Legislature, at the urging of Long Islanders concerned with the future health and management of the estuary. The Act called for the Reserve's protection and prudent management and created the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council, chaired by the New York State Secretary of State. The Reserve Council is a group of representatives from south shore towns and villages, Nassau and Suffolk counties and the City of Long Beach, State agencies, and recreation, business, academic, environmental and citizens interests. The Act charged the Council with the preparation of a comprehensive management plan for the Reserve.

The Reserve Comprehensive Management Plan addresses these five major areas:

  • Water Quality
    Nonpoint source pollution is the primary water quality concern in the South Shore Estuary Reserve. Elevated levels of coliform bacteria in stormwater runoff, an indicator of the potential presence of pathogens, are responsible for the closures of shellfish beds and bathing beaches. Sediment and excessive nutrients in stormwater runoff have pronounced negative effects on the Reserve's living resources. Improving water quality in the Reserve is dependent on federal, State and local governments, and private sector partners, implementing a strategy to protect lands that provide significant pollution abatement functions, retrofit existing stormwater infrastructure, adopt best management practices, and increase education and outreach to modify resident and user behavior.
  • Living Resources
    The Reserve is a encompasses a rich and complex ecosystem. Its beaches, shallow bays, tidal marshes, tributaries and upland areas makes it one of the most ecologically productive regions in the United States. Productivity has been negatively impacted by habitat loss and degradation, largely due to the filling of low-lying lands for human development and water quality decline. To sustain and improve the living resources of the Reserve, the CMP recommends incorporating an ecosystem perspective into resource management; protecting, restoring, and improving habitat; improving the productivity of living resources; and addressing scientific information needs.
  • Public Use and Enjoyment
    The public's ability to use and enjoy the natural and recreational resources of the Reserve depends upon appropriate access to its tributaries, bays, and shoreline. The number of formal, dedicated shoreline public access sites and recreational facilities is finite, and additional opportunities to increase public access will become fewer as private shoreline development continues. All levels of government must work together in cooperation with private development interests to preserve open space for public enjoyment and access, buffer sensitive habitats, improve water quality and retain the visual landscape of the estuary.
  • Estuary-related Economy
    The relatively calm, protected waters and abundant natural resources of the South Shore estuary provide the basis for the water-related economic activities that have evolved from the harvesting of oysters, hard clams, and salt hay, and boat building, to recreational boating, sport fishing, waterborne transportation and tourism. Changes in the nature of these water-dependent businesses reflect the influence of a growing population and market demand, transportation improvements and increased recreational demands. The amount of estuary shoreline suitable for establishing new water-dependent uses or expanding existing ones is limited, while, at the same time, some existing water-dependent uses are gradually being displaced by more economically-competitive non water-dependent uses. To maintain the viability of the estuary-related economy, water-dependent businesses should be supported and maritime centers should be enhanced.
  • Education, Outreach and Stewardship
    Public awareness, understanding, and stewardship of the Reserve is raised through outreach to general and specific audiences and through formal education activities. Individuals of all ages and local governments and non-governmental groups are encouraged to become stewards of the estuary.