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Water Quality Improvement

Goals

Suffolk County designed this division in order to protect and maintain the quality and integrity of Suffolk County’s ground, drinking, and surface waters. Providing critical protection of our groundwater resources is especially important here in Suffolk County, because we sit atop a federally designated Sole-Source Aquifer. Protection of the vast arrays of fresh and salt surface waters is vitally important in maintaining the social and economic advantages afforded by the natural aquatic environment of Suffolk County. The Water Quality and Improvement Division’s primary goal is to protect and remediate the quality of ground and surface waters throughout Suffolk County.


Responsibilities

Administrative

  • Supervises administers, and implements the ¼% sales tax funded Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and Land Stewardship Initiatives (WQPRP) under Section 12-2 (B) of the Suffolk County Charter provides administrative and technical support to the WQPRP Review Committee which approves all funding through the WQPRP.
  • Coordinates activities being performed by the County Department of Public Works and the County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation under Section 12-2 (B) of the Suffolk County Charter via personnel and / or consultants funded in those departments under the ¼% County Drinking Water Protection Program, Fund 477.
  • Prepares applications for funding assistance through State grant programs, such as the Clean Air/Clean Water Bond Act.
  • Oversees all water quality improvement projects approved for grant funding.
  • Represents the Commissioner at various public and governmental meetings.
  • Serves on numerous committees and task forces as required.
  • Maintain records and documents for all active Water Quality projects.

Engineering / Environmental

Stormwater Management

  • Oversees all stages of stormwater remediation projects from concept to completion including design, permits, implementation, and inspections
  • Assists DPW in responding to public complaints that relate to illicit discharges to County-owned storm sewer systems and/or surface waters
  • Uses available literature to evaluate the effectiveness of various stormwater remediation practices
  • Coordinates with Cornell Cooperative Extension and DPW to ensure that requirements of US EPA Phase II are met with each project
  • Coordinates Vector Control Projects with DPW
  • Provides support on Department of Health Services (DHS) and Parks Department WQPRP projects
  • Coordinates various DHS projects related to Water Quality improvements

Programs

Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and Land Stewardship Initiatives

  • Funded under the Suffolk County 1/4% Drinking Water Protection Program for Environmental Protection (Fund 477)
  • Created by Resolution 659-2002; amended by Resolution 770-2007 and by voter approval this program has been extended 17 years (until 2030)
  • The WQPRP provides for funding to protect and restore water resources throughout the County. This includes both surface and ground water. Projects must be sponsored by the County.

The following are the categories of projects eligible for funding under the WQPRP:

  • No-Discharge Zone Implementation
  • Education and Outreach
  • Other Non-point Source Pollution - Remediation
  • Non-point Source Abatement and Control - Preservation
  • Non-point Source Abatement and Control - Remediation
  • Aquatic Habitat Restoration
  • Agricultural Non-point Source Abatement and Control
  • Pollution Prevention Initiatives
  • Land Stewardship Initiatives

Smith Point North Wetlands Restoration

Shirley, New York

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused storm damage to several areas of New York State.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized federal public assistance to affected communities and certain non-profit organizations per FEMA 4085-DR-NY, and in accordance with the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974 (42 U.S.S. 5172) as amended; the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act (SRIA) of 2013, and the accompanying Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013.

The Department of Homeland Security-Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS-FEMA) is providing Federal financial assistance to New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (NYSDHSES), as Recipient, and Suffolk County, as Sub-recipient. New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services was awarded a coastal resiliency grant with the main purposes of improving natural protection against flooding, storm surge, and intense wave action through improvement of salt marsh health, sustainability, and resilience. To get more information regarding this important marsh restoration project and the corresponding Environmental Assessment Report, please follow the links below:

Environmental Assessment

Environmental Assessment Appendix A

Environmental Assessment Appendix B Part 1

Environmental Assessment Appendix B Part 2

Environmental Assessment Appendices C through J

Public Notice

Fertilizer Nitrogen Reduction Legislation and Funding

WQPRP funding was provided to reduce nitrogen loading to ground and surface waters through the overall reduction and better management of turf fertilizer applications. The bill includes the following measures:

  • Prohibits fertilizer application to turf between November 1st and April 1st, months when the ground is likely to be frozen (Agriculture is exempt)
  • Prohibits fertilizer application on all county properties at all times (County Farm, golf courses, athletic fields, and newly seeded or sodded areas are exempt)
  • Requires licensed landscapers to take a “Groundwater Stewardship and Turf Nutrient and Maintenance Practices” course to renew or obtain their license
  • Requires the posting of informational signs and brochures at retail establishments
  • Emphasizes education and outreach via coordination of existing programs and entities as well as a new interactive website to be developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University.

Invasive Species

Suffolk County continues to be a leader in invasive species control policies and funding -- the need to keep waters open for fishing, boating and swimming, our lands walkable, and keeping our natural areas rich in biodiversity is critical for our county's future. The Suffolk County Water And Land Invasives Advisory Board was created in 2009 to implement the county-wide invasives program.


Recent Achievements

The Charter Law extending and accelerating the Suffolk County ¼% drinking water protection program for environmental protection was approved by the Suffolk County voters during November 2007. This law extended the ¼% sales tax revenue trust fund through November 30, 2030. An additional 0.50% share of the ¼% sales tax trust fund was implemented on December 1, 2007 to fund the Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and Land Stewardship Initiatives (WQPRP). This raises the portion of the ¼% sales tax revenues apportioned to the WQPRP to 11.75%.

WQPRP -Through the WQPRP, Suffolk County has funded over $52 million in projects to reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate and prevent pollution of groundwater and surface waters, and to restore natural water habitats and wetlands.

Management of over 50 Active Projects - The Water Quality Improvement Division supervised 50 on-going water quality projects during 2018. The total funding to date for the projects funded through the Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and Land Stewardship Initiatives (WQPRP) is approximately $52 million dollars.

Between 2016 and 2018, the WQPRP Review Committee approved $4.7 million in Enhanced Water Quality funding for an additional 14 projects.

During 2018, the WQPRP Review Committee approved nearly $2.4 million in 477 Water Quality funding for an additional 10 projects.

Partnership Projects

Tidal Wetland Restoration at Indian Island County Park

The Division applied for a grant through the Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) fund from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for the restoration of a tidal wetland system at Indian Island County Park in Riverhead. The Division was awarded the grant for $788,000 for the execution of the proposed project. This is an important part of the preservation and restoration of wetlands within the Peconic Estuary System.

The Division was also successful in obtaining support for an additional $300,000 in WQPRP funding from the Suffolk County ¼% sales tax funds for this project. Funding from NYSDEC and Suffolk County will provide for the implementation of the project as it was proposed to the State.

The Division has been working along the Office of Vector Control, SCDPW, for the planning phase of the project. An engineering firm was secured for the development of work plans and as a result, an updated work plan has been submitted to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for review and feedback.

Once a work plan is approved, Suffolk County will start the permitting process for the implementation phase, which is expected to be during the 2019-2020 winter season.

Wetlands Stewardship Program (WSP)

This program was recommended by the Vector Control and Wetlands Management Long-Term Plan, under Resolution 1150-2007, to address the needs of wetlands throughout the County. As stipulated in Resolution 1150-2007, the WSP is to be conducted under the supervision of the Department of Economic Development and Planning. The Division of Water Quality Improvement has been administering the WSP for the Department. This program is important because it deals with public health concerns related to mosquito issues and the diverse environmental services that these delicate environments provide.

A final report, prepared under contract with a consultant, was received by the County during 2012. The Wetlands Stewardship Strategy (WSS) was finalized by the Division in conjunction with Public Works vector control and accepted by the Wetlands Stewardship Committee (WSC) during 2013. The final product is the Wetland Stewardship Strategy (WSS), which provides a plan for restoration and management based on the Long-Term Plan principles of vector control and reduction of pesticides.

The WSS was adopted by the Suffolk County Executive on July 13, 2015, through Executive Order 01-2015. The executive order states that marsh health is the paramount objective of this Executive initiative and a natural expansion of our numerous existing water quality protection and restoration projects. The adoption of the Wetlands Stewardship Strategy is a key step in maintaining and restoring our wetlands.

Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Application

The Division submitted a grant application during November 2013 under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), funded through the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and administered through The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (NYS DHSES). Suffolk County was awarded the grant on July 2014. The purpose of the project is to restore a marsh at Smith Point North County Park in Shirley and will provide natural protection from flooding tidal surges.

Given the magnitude of the potential tidal flooding damage compared to the modest cost of implementing the project, even if a small fraction of the tidal flooding could be prevented by the implementation of this project the benefit will far exceed the cost of the project. We have conservatively assumed that the full implementation of the project would mitigate at least 10% of the direct potential tidal flooding damages.

Currently, Suffolk County has conducted the planning and permitting phase. The Division administers this grant and works along SCDPW, Office of Vector Control, on all aspects of implementation.

Fish Ladder at Lower Yaphank Lake

The Division is actively managing a project to provide fish passage at Lower Lake Dam/County Road 21, Yaphank along the Carmans River. Installing fish passage at Lower Lake Dam will facilitate the migration of diadromous fish safely and effectively across the last existing stream barrier on the river into upstream spawning habitat while also protecting public welfare with regards to flooding and existing infrastructure. Alewife and American eel have been identified as priority diadromous fish species due to their historic presence but currently limited distribution within the tributaries of the South Shore Reserve including the Carmans River. These target fish species are vital to the healthy functioning of Long Island’s coastal ecosystem.

A final fish passage design has been completed that will consist of three primary segments: 1) an open channel fishway contained by earthen berms downstream of the dam, connecting the Carmans River to the existing arch culvert; 2) a fish passage contained within the existing arch culvert that allows passage underneath CR 21/Yaphank Ave; and 3) an open channel fish passage contained by steel sheet pile extending into Lower Lake with planted aquatic benches on either side. It was determined that this fish passage design would be the most viable and efficient design to allow passage of the target fish species from the downstream portion of the Carmans River into Lower Lake and the upper reaches of the river.

Fish passage has already been restored at the two downstream dams at Sunrise Hwy (NYS DOT) and within Southaven Park (Suffolk County), as well as at the dam upstream at Upper Lake (Town of Brookhaven). This project will complete comprehensive fish habitat restoration along the entire 10 mile long Carmans River.

This project is in accordance with the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council's Comprehensive Management Plan (SSER CMP) to restore the estuary's living resources and habitats. And is consistent with the SSER CMP’s specific recommendation to restore diadromous fish populations in tributaries where the necessary habitat conditions exist or can be created.

Multiple sources of County and State grant funding including Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program Grant, New York State Department of State (NYSDOS) Clean Water/Air Bond Act Grant, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Water Quality Improvement (WQIP) Grant, and NYSDEC Tributary Restoration and Resiliency Grant funds have made this project possible.

Pesticide Community Advisory Committee (CAC)

The Pesticide CAC was established by Resolution. No. 1227-2006. This committee considers temporary ‘special use’ exemptions to Local Law No. 59-2006 requested by the County’s Departments or organizations using County property. The resolution requires that the CAC meet four times per year, but the meetings have typically been held more frequently. The Division headed up this committee which held meetings throughout 2018 to review exemption requests for pesticides to be applied on County properties.

Support for the pesticide phase-out on County properties is provided under contract with Cornell Cooperative Extension. The funding for this project comes from the ¼% water quality protection program and must be recommended each year by the WQPRP Review Committee and approved by the adoption of the County operating budget.

Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Programs

During 2018 the Division provided technical review and support for the five (5) CCE programs listed below. These purposes of these programs range from keeping the County in compliance with Federal and State stormwater runoff regulations to shellfish restoration to various agricultural programs that will help to protect our environment while retaining the economic benefits of the agricultural industry of Suffolk County.

  1. US EPA Stormwater Phase II Implementation
  2. Restoration of Peconic Bay Scallops
  3. Alternative Management Strategies for Control of Insect Pests in Suffolk County Agriculture and Landscapes
  4. Integrated Pest Management Program
  5. Development and Implementation of an Agricultural Stewardship Program

Stormwater Phase II

The Division continued to manage this vital program that is necessary for the County to remain in compliance with its NYSDEC General SPDES permit for stormwater discharges. This permit is mandated by the USEPA pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The Division works closely with Suffolk County Departments of Public Works, Parks, Health Services, and the County Attorney’s Office with respect to this program.

The Division worked with the County Attorney’s Office and the County Executive’s Budget Office to process contracts, contracts amendments and budget modifications associated with this program.

The Division provides technical input and oversight on work to be completed by CCE, and works with CCE to ensure compliance with all permitting requirements.

Funding was approved through the WQPRP Review Committee and adopted into the Department’s 2019 operating budget to allow CCE of Suffolk County to continue their work in support of the County’s general stormwater permit requirements.

Kelp Feasibility Study 

The Division is actively support a “kelp” feasibility study. Seaweed (kelp) aquaculture is an emerging “green industry” that offers considerable environmental and economic benefits to the region. This project aims to evaluate the potential of this new industry in Suffolk County to improve water quality via bioextraction of water column nitrogen and carbon, while producing a high-demand, renewable product. The techniques and methodology needed to be successful in this initiative have been developed and will be refined, adapted and implemented by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) scientists at several sites within the Peconic Estuary in consultation with scientists at the University of Connecticut.

Seaweed aquaculture is a unique green industry in that it is actually restorative to the marine environment making it a sustainable practice. Growth and harvest of seaweeds leads to the direct removal of excess dissolved nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus) and carbon from local waters, helping to reverse the impacts of eutrophication and excess carbon emissions. Nitrogen specifically, is a pollutant of significant concern in the waters of Suffolk County, and this project can lead to large scale removal of this POC from our local waters. Research conducted in Long Island Sound by the University of Connecticut found kelp aquaculture has the potential to extract up to 100 kg of nitrogen per hectare over the six month growing period (December-May). Other published research has found that seaweed cultivation has the potential to take up carbon dioxide at a rate approaching 10 tons/hectare/year.

Recent work in Long Island Sound has demonstrated that seaweeds can be grown to produce a viable commodity used for food, pharmaceuticals, soil amendments and/or biofuels, while sequestering nitrogen and carbon from the water column. This project represents the first step in developing a new commodity for New York’s legacy industry of aquaculture to expand, providing a reliable “crop” for current and future marine farmers to grow in and harvest from Suffolk County waters. Once established, this sustainable seaweed aquaculture industry could play an important role in our marine environment by removing excess nutrients, especially dissolved nitrogen, while creating new sustainable green jobs.

Nitrogen Fertilizer Reduction Initiative

As part of Local Law 41-2007 all renewals, or new applicants for a Suffolk County Home Improvement Contractors License, who apply fertilizer, must take a Suffolk County approved turf management class. By the end of 2018 a total of 46 classes had been offered and more than 1,800 certificates had been issued. As part of the course landscapers learn about the prohibition dates on fertilizer application, the environmental consequences of nitrogen runoff, alternatives to turfgrass such as native plantings, proper use and application techniques of fertilizer, and information on soils.

Signs and brochures have been sent out to all county retail locations that sell fertilizer informing the public of the prohibition dates for fertilizer use, how to manage their lawns properly with less fertilizer, why nitrogen pollution is detrimental to our water resources, and when is the best time to apply fertilizer. A self-teaching CD, developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE), to educate owners and employees of fertilizer retail locations was also sent out to all retailers. This information can be disseminated to customers inquiring about the program. Suffolk County has been working with retail locations to replenish brochures and replace lost or misplaced signs.

This program received a 2010 National Association of Counties (NACo) Award which recognizes unique and innovative county programs nationwide. The Division made a presentation about the fertilizer reduction initiative including such topics as: the law, landscaper education classes, and the turf module developed by Cornell University (CU) at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Long Island Groundwater Research Institute held at Suffolk County Water Authority.

Water and Land Invasive Advisory Board (Board)

The Division is an active voting member of this Board and provided technical and scientific advisories throughout 2012.  The Department has dedicated website space to provide information to the public and the most updated version of the Do Not Sell List (list).  Resolution 614 -2007 adopted a local law to prohibit the sale, introduction, and propagation of invasive non-native plant species. The Resolution also established the Board to manage and update the list of those species that are considered invasive and non-native. The Board meets several times a year to review and update the “Do-Not-Sell List” and holds public hearings prior any updates of Resolution 614-2007.

Peconic Estuary Program (PEP)

The Division participated throughout 2018 in the Peconic Estuary Program (PEP) Management Committee meetings as well as meetings of the PEP Technical Advisory Committee and the PEP Natural Resources Committee.

Peconic Estuary Protection Committee (PEPC)

The Division is a member of the Peconic Estuary Protection Committee (PEPC), a coalition among municipal governments in the Peconic Estuary watershed. The goals of the PEPC include developing efficiencies in stormwater management and working towards improved water quality for the watershed. This coalition will help all member municipalities comply with their NYS DEC issued State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permits for stormwater management and will facilitate competing for grant funding for stormwater projects that are vital to the protection of the water quality of the Peconic Estuary.

Wetland Restoration in Suffolk County (NY) using Integrated Marsh Management

National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF), Through the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program, awarded Suffolk County the grant entitled “Wetland Restoration in Suffolk County (NY) using Integrated Marsh Management” totaling $1,310,000 in 2015. The purpose of the grant is to restore 400 wetland acres and build capacity to rehabilitate 1,500 acres in Suffolk County, New York. The project will strengthen wetland resiliency and provide capacity-building opportunities. There are four marshes selected for the project: Gardiner County Park West, Gardiner County Park East, Timber Point, and West Sayville. In addition, a reference site at East Islip Preserve was selected for monitoring purposes to allow before-after-control-impact (BACI) comparisons.

Pre-project monitoring at three project marshes (Gardiners West and East, and Timber Point) commenced in 2016. West Sayville and East Islip marshes were surveyed starting in 2017. Initially, the project implementation was scheduled for 2018. The project implementation is expected to be conducted during 2019.

Suffolk County Government

H. Lee Dennison Bldg

100 Veterans Memorial Hwy
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Riverhead County Center

County Road 51
Riverhead, NY 11901