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

June 9, 2023

State's Water Quality Improvement Project Funding Helps Protect Drinking Water Sources

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Peconic Land Trust (PLT), and town of Brookhaven today announced the preservation of land that will help protect Long Island's sole source aquifer, the drinking water source for millions of residents. Funding was made available to help support the protection of these lands as part of the State's successful Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) Program to protect public water sources and the environment.

"New York is making record investments and working closely with local governments and community partners to support a suite of actions that are improving and protecting drinking water quality-here on Long Island and across the state," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "DEC will continue to work closely with the Peconic Land Trust and town of Brookhaven to implement projects that help ensure Long Island communities have a supply of clean drinking water for generations to come."

Peconic Land Trust purchased a 15.7-acre parcel on the south side of South Street in Manorville, within the Pine Barrens Compatible Growth Area, from the Presbytery of Long Island utilizing $423,750 in WQIP grant funding. PLT partnered with the town of Brookhaven to cover the required 25 percent local match for this parcel. In addition to protecting Long Island's drinking water source, the newly protected land in Manorville will be used for recreation including 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 WQIP grant awarded in December 2017 to the PLT for implementation of a Regional Aquifer Protection Land Acquisition Program (RAPLAP). 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. PLT and the town of Brookhaven partnered on three additional conservation projects under RAPLAP: the Cornfield Preserve (Ridge) in 2019; River Preserve (Manorville) in 2019; and Moriches Preserve (Moriches) in 2021.

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 our fourth acquisition in the town of Brookhaven of land that will contribute to the health and well-being of Brookhaven residents. Our sincere thanks go to the Presbytery of Long Island of the Presbyterian Church (landowner) for choosing a conservation outcome for this land. We also extend our appreciation to Governor Kathy Hochul, 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."

"The Town of Brookhaven strongly supports the acquisition of this heavily-wooded 15-acre parcel, situated in the Compatible Growth Area of the environmentally significant Central Pine Barrens," said Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine. "Preserving the property will, simultaneously, help maintain the rural character of Manorville hamlet, protect the area's scenic quality, preserve significant wildlife habitat and safeguard the critical drinking water aquifers beneath the site."

"The opportunity to preserve this land to keep it in its natural state and to contribute to improving local water quality is in keeping with the Presbytery mission," said Pastor Mark Tammen of the Presbytery of Long Island. "We thank the Trust for working with us to achieve this important conservation goal."

In addition to the property protected by PLT, a second parcel of 4.1 acres in Yaphank was also protected, made possible by a WQIP grant to Brookhaven for nearly $394,000 in 2019. The project includes unoccupied, densely wooded land that will remain undeveloped, forested land to filter potential pollutants and protect drinking water in perpetuity. The town derives its public drinking water from the underlying sole source aquifer through the Suffolk County Water Authority.

New York's Commitment to Clean Water

WQIP is a competitive, reimbursement grant program that funds projects that improve water quality or aquatic habitat, promote flood risk reduction, restoration, and enhanced flood and climate resiliency, or protect a drinking water source. Under this grant program, DEC announced more than $65 million for 51 land acquisition projects to date. In addition to land acquisition projects for source water protection, WQIP grants may be awarded for wastewater treatment improvement, non-agricultural nonpoint source abatement and control, vacuum trucks in municipal storm sewer system (MS4) areas, salt storage, dam safety repair/rehabilitation, aquatic connectivity restoration, and marine district habitat restoration.

DEC recently announced applications are being accepted for at least $78 million in WQIP grant funding, of which up to $3 million is available through DEC's Non-agriculture Nonpoint Source Planning and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Mapping Grant (NPG) program, through July 28, 2023. Visit the WQIP webpage for more information.

New York continues to increase its investments in clean water infrastructure. Most recently, the 2023-24 Enacted Budget includes the $500 million in clean water funding proposed by Governor Hochul in January and brings New York's total clean water infrastructure investment to $5 billion since 2017. In April, Governor Kathy Hochul made the first funding announcement advanced under the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022. A total of $425 million is available - $200 million in Bond Act funds and $225 million in funding from the State's existing Water Infrastructure Improvement and Intermunicipal Grant programs. Locations will include Central New York, the Adirondacks, and the Upper and Lower Hudson River valleys.

To leverage these investments and ensure ongoing coordination with local governments, the Governor created Community Assistance Teams to provide proactive outreach to small, rural, and disadvantaged communities to help them access financial assistance to address their clean water infrastructure needs. The initiative was recently launched and outreach meetings are underway. For more information, go to EFC's website.


PLT'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.

For more information, visit the Trust's website).

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