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New Stewardship Plan for Nissequogue River is Called to Action
Long Island Sound Study


Paul C. Focazio, Writer/Web Content Manager, NYSG, Paul.Focazio@stonybrook.edu

Larissa Graham, Long Island Sound Study Outreach Coordinator, NYSG, ljg85@cornell.edu

STONY BROOK, NY, Wednesday, November 25, 2008 – A coalition of elected officials, business, civic and environmental organizations that created the 36-page Nissequogue River Stewardship Action Plan gathered at Sunken Meadow State Park yesterday afternoon to officially release the report and celebrate its first action, already underway.

Because of its significant ecological and recreational values, the Nissequogue River and its 40 square-mile watershed was named one of 33 “Stewardship Areas” by the Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative in 2005.

“The Nissequogue watershed is crucial to the health of Long Island Sound and it is worth protecting,” said New York State Assemblyman Michael J. Fitzpatrick at the event.

The press conference was held at the site of an earthen dam that will be reconstructed by New York State Parks to restore fish passage and tidal flow.  The rehabilitation project is one of over 100 actions intended to ensure the management and protection of water quality and natural resources in the Nissequogue River and its watershed.

Suffolk County Legislator John M. Kennedy, also in attendance, applauded this first project, which reinforces the unique value of the River. “This is one of the few rivers in this region with a natural trout population,” he said.

Other projects will be generated from the comprehensive report’s many objectives, which are grouped into several topics, including habitat, water quality, land use and open space and education and outreach. Robert Freudenberg, a senior planner for Long Island with the Regional Plan Association, which coordinated the report, addressed any possible concerns that a report of this size might be a challenge to bring to life. “We want everyone – elected officials, residents and all other interested parties – to be champions of this plan so that it doesn’t stand still,” he said. The next step will be to prioritize actions via an implementation plan. Mark Tedesco, Director of the Long Island Sound Study (LISS), furthered this point, saying, “The energy of the commitment that brought all the partners together to generate this plan will continue as they work to implement what it stands for.”

Students from Hauppauge High School are putting the Plan in motion as they gather information on water quality, fish, and plants, needed by scientists and engineers involved with the dam reconstruction.  Students from Kings Park High School are removing invasive plants along the Greenbelt Trail at Nissequogue River State Park, another project that is highlighted in the Plan. Both projects are in conjunction with Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Open Space Stewardship Program. “Projects, such as these, not only provide the opportunity for hands-on learning,” Larissa Graham, New York Sea Grant’s LISS Specialist, stated, “but also allow students to explore and appreciate the environment in their own backyard.”

For more on these projects, see Larissa Graham's article, "Local High School students assist in protecting the Nissequogue River Watershed" (click here)

A demonstration followed brief talks from others, including Suffolk County Legislator Lynne Nowick, Smithtown Town Councilwoman Pat Biancaniello, representatives for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and New York Governor David Patterson. LISS’s Heather Young and Larissa Graham donned waders to safely net fish – including sticklebacks, sheepshead minnow, silversides, sand shrimp, killifish and mummichugs – and show which species may benefit from the enhanced fish passage project. 

Copies of the Action Plan are available at www.rpa.org/nissequogue

Regional Plan Association worked with a number of partners to bring the Plan together. These included, among others: elected officials, local citizens, Environmental Defense Fund, Long Island Sound Study, Suffolk County League of Women Voters, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, New York State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York Sea Grant, Trout Unlimited, Nissequogue River Park Foundation, Suffolk County, the Town of Smithtown and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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