DEC, Peconic Land Trust, and Town of Brookhaven Announce Preservation of Land Critical to Protect Long Island’s Sole Source Aquifer

February 18, 2021

Brookhaven Property Acquisition is the Latest to Use DEC Source Water Protection Grants on Long Island

For Immediate Release: 02/18/2021

Contact: Jeff Wernick | (518) 402-8000

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Peconic Land Trust (PLT), and town of Brookhaven today announced the preservation of a parcel in the hamlet of Moriches. The acquisition of this property will help protect Long Island's groundwater, the sole drinking water source for millions of residents. PLT paid $660,000 for the 13.2-acre parcel at 285 Montauk Highway in Moriches, near the headwaters of the Forge River. DEC grant funding will cover approximately three-quarters of the acquisition costs, and PLT partnered with the town of Brookhaven to cover the 25 percent local match for this parcel.

"New York State's sustained investments to support clean water infrastructure, including an additional $500 million in Governor Cuomo's 2021-22 Executive Budget, are helping to transform acquisitions like this into long-term protections for drinking water in communities across the state," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "The acquisition announced today in partnership with Peconic Land Trust will help to improve water quality while also bolstering recreational opportunities in the Forge River watershed."

John v.H. Halsey, President of the Peconic Land Trust, said, "The Trust is pleased to work with the DEC and the Town of Brookhaven to protect our important groundwater resources. This is the third preservation in the town of Brookhaven of land that will contribute to health and well-being of Brookhaven residents. Our sincere thanks go to the landowner for choosing to sell this land to protect it instead of building on it. We also extend our appreciation to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York State Senate and Assembly, and the staff of the DEC for making this funding available; and to the Town of Brookhaven and the Peconic Estuary Partnership for partnering with us. We look forward to announcing additional conservation efforts in Brookhaven later this year."

In addition to protecting Long Island's drinking water source, the newly protected land will be used for passive recreation, for example hiking and birdwatching, with potential improvements limited to a foot trail, placement of trail markers, and a trailhead kiosk.

Funding for the acquisition comes from a $2.3 million DEC grant awarded in December 2017 to the Peconic Land Trust for implementation of a Regional Aquifer Protection Land Acquisition Program. The property was identified by the town of Brookhaven as a priority for conservation because of its location adjacent to other protected Suffolk County land and town conservation easement land, and its proximity to land owned by the Suffolk County Water Authority.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romine said, "By preserving this property as open space, we have taken a giant leap forward to improve the water quality of the Forge River and our environmentally sensitive aquifer. Prior to the cleanup, there were many dilapidated structures, more than 30 tractor trailers, and old carnival equipment strewn throughout the property. All that was removed by the Town and the property has now been returned to nature as it should be. I am proud to continue our strong partnership with the New York State DEC and Peconic Land Trust and will continue to work closely with them in the future to identify and preserve more open space in the Town."

"The preservation of property today will pay dividends in the future, for our environment and for the community," Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico said. "We are grateful to our partners who made this acquisition possible and will continue our efforts into the future. This latest acquisition adds to the extensive acreage we have already preserved and is ecologically sensitive."

New York's Water Quality Improvement Program (WQIP)

WQIP is supported by the landmark $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act (CWIA) and the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). It is a competitive reimbursement grant program to fund projects that improve water quality, reduce the potential for harmful algal blooms, and protect drinking water across the state. Grants are awarded for municipal wastewater treatment, nonagricultural nonpoint source abatement and control, salt storage, aquatic habitat restoration, municipal separate storm sewer systems, and land acquisition projects for source water protection.

The Regional Aquifer Protection Land Acquisition Program (RAPLAP)

Peconic Land Trust's RAPLAP is a multi-year program using WQIP funding to acquire land or development rights for surface water quality, groundwater recharge areas, and drinking water protection.

In Brookhaven, funding for this program allows properties to be protected in and near the Special Groundwater Protection Areas within the Peconic Estuary and Forge River watersheds and the South Shore Estuary Reserve.

The Peconic Land Trust is partnering with Peconic Estuary Partnership to pool resources and expertise to identify and acquire land or development rights on parcels that meet source water protection criteria. Since 2017, DEC has awarded the Peconic Land Trust nearly $9 million from WQIP through three funding rounds in support of RAPLAP. A matching grant program, the DEC provides approximately 75 percent of acquisition costs and the remaining 25 percent is matched with other public and/or private funds. The three rounds of funding were:

  • In 2017, the Trust was awarded $2.3 million in support of acquisitions in the town of Brookhaven, from which this current acquisition is funded.
  • The Trust was awarded an additional $3 million by DEC in December 2018 for Phase II to assist the towns of Shelter Island, Southold, and Riverhead.
  • In 2019, the Trust was awarded an additional $3.656 million in Phase III to assist the towns of Brookhaven, East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, and Southold.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo continues to increase investments for clean water infrastructure projects, including the State's unprecedented $3.5 billion commitment - recently bolstered by an additional $500 million proposed in the 2021-22 Executive Budget - to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean water. As part of the state's Environmental Protection Fund, which the Governor's Executive Budget renews at a record $300 million, WQIP supports projects to improve water quality, reduce the potential for harmful algal blooms (HABs), and protect drinking water across the state. DEC has announced more than $37 million in grants that are helping partners support 37 WQIP land acquisition projects to-date. In addition to land acquisition projects for source water protection, WQIP grants are awarded for municipal wastewater treatment, nonagricultural nonpoint source abatement and control, salt storage, and aquatic habitat restoration.

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