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Peconic Land Trust Begins Restoration of Forge River Peninsula

October 19, 2018

Funding for the acquisition and the restoration has been provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Southampton, New York. The Peconic Land Trust announced today that the restoration of sensitive wetlands and uplands along the Forge River in the Village of Mastic Beach has begun with the removal of the house, ancillary structures and the abandonment of the septic system. The Trust acquired the 4+ acre property in September 2014 from the Stony Brook Foundation.

The Trust has received two grants from the US Department of Agriculture to assist in the conservation of these lands. The first was to purchase a conservation easement from the Trust on the property, which covered approximately 85 percent of the acquisition costs. The second grant is for the restoration of the property to its natural state. Both grants are funded under the USDA’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP). The local community has also assisted in this effort.

The Trust worked closely with National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – an agency of the USDA -- on the restoration plan. The engineering firm, E2PM, has been contracted by the Trust for the restoration of the property. This will also include the management of invasive species. The small amount of existing bulkhead will be retained while the bulk of the shoreline will remain in its natural state.

“The property, which was damaged during Hurricane Sandy, provides an excellent opportunity to optimize coastal resiliency along the Forge River. Parcels like this include wetlands that act as natural sponges in storm surges. By removing the existing residence and its septic system, we are not only helping to improve the river’s resiliency but also reducing pollution by one less septic system. The property will forever be a nature preserve and will contribute to the overall health of the Forge River,” said John v.H. Halsey, President, Peconic Land Trust.

Founded in 1983, Peconic Land Trust conserves Long Island’s working farms, natural lands, and heritage. Since its inception, the nonprofit Trust has worked conscientiously with landowners, communities, municipalities, partner organizations, and donors, to conserve over 12,000 acres of land on Long Island. The Trust’s professional staff carries out the necessary research and planning to identify and implement alternatives to outright development. While working to conserve the productive farms, watersheds, woodlands, and beachfront of Long Island, the Trust is also protecting the unique rural heritage and natural resources of the region. For more information about the Peconic Land Trust, visit peconiclandtrust.org.

Background on the Project

In 2009, the residential waterfront property, which includes a residence and ancillary buildings, was gifted to the Stony Brook Foundation in support of its School for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University by Jack Macrae and Paula Cooper. Mr. Macrae and Ms. Cooper made the gift to further the research efforts of the University regarding environment and specifically for research toward the restoration of the Forge River estuary and others like it on Long Island.

The Foundation had been in discussions with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2013 about the state acquiring the property for conservation purposes. The property sustained damage during Hurricane Sandy, and the NYS DEC had identified a grant through the US Department of Agriculture which would support both the acquisition and the restoration of the property to its natural state. In early 2014, an all cash buyer for the property came forward, which shortened the timeline for acquisition.

Thomas B. Williams, co-Chair of the Trust’s Board of Directors at the time (and now a Board Member Emeritus at the Trust) and a resident of Brookhaven, had been working with the Foundation and the NYS DEC on a conservation plan for the property, and when faced with the accelerated timeline brought the opportunity to the Trust – as the DEC would not be able to act quickly enough to acquire the project in advance of the grant funding. The Trust, using its Revolving Fund – the Peter J. Sharp Fund for the Environment – was able to issue a letter of intent to the Foundation in February 2014 and entered into a contract to purchase in early June. The Trust purchased the property on September 3, 2014.

The Grant

In 2013, the US Department of Agriculture, through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, began allocating funds to purchase conservation easements from landowners affected by Hurricane Sandy and other major natural disasters through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. The Peconic Land Trust assumed the grant proposal that had been initiated by the Stony Brook Foundation. The grant proposal was submitted by the Trust in April 2014 and had two-parts, which have now been funded:

  1. The USDA to purchase a conservation easement on the property.
  2. The USDA would provide funding for the demolition of the existing structures and restoration of the property to its natural state.

To learn more about this project, please contact Matt Swain, Senior Stewardship Manager at MSwain@PeconicLandTrust.org or call 631.283.3195.

For more on the conservation, see the Trust’s 2014 Fall Newsletter.

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