New York's Long Island Sound coast encompasses 304 miles of shoreline in Westchester, Bronx, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties and its watershed is home to nearly 1.5 million people. Accelerated demands for development, declining water quality in harbors and embayments, and difficulties sustaining a healthy maritime economy, led our office to develop a regional approach to address the coastal management issues unique to Long Island Sound.
The Long Island Sound Coastal Management Program (LIS CMP) reviewed the coast from four perspectives: the developed coast, the natural coast, the public coast, and the working coast. Each was considered for its own intrinsic value, and its interrelationship with the other coasts.
The LIS CMP is based on public consensus and close consultation with the state agencies whose programs and activities affect the coast. It integrates the capabilities of state and local government into an enforceable program for the Sound. It complements the Long Island Sound Study Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, which focuses on water quality in the deep waters of the Sound, by addressing the upland watershed and harbor and nearshore waters.
The major findings in the program include:
- Open Space: Within the next 20 years, the projected population increase in the Long Island Sound coastal area could result in near "build-out" under current zoning, eliminating many of the open areas that presently exist.
- Natural Resources: Erosion protection structures have hardened fifty percent of the natural shoreline, and building continues near the edge of bluffs. The Sound's vegetated wetlands have been reduced by 25% to 35%. Nonpoint source pollution threatens the ecological resources and economic activities of the Sound's embayments.
- Working Waterfront: There are over 193 water-dependent commercial and industrial businesses along the Sound shore, two-thirds of which are concentrated in ten harbors. Concerns include protecting essential services, such as waterborne transportation of sand and gravel; developing efficient passenger and cargo ferries; and improving petroleum transshipment and storage to protect the region's enclosed, shallow harbors.
- Public Access: Only four major recreational facilities along the Sound coast are open to the general public. Increases in the size and number of docks interfere with public trust rights by obstructing access along the shore and the nearshore waters.
This analysis led to the development of a new set of coastal policies that provide standards for region-specific planning, regulatory issues, and community needs. The LIS CMP Policies (Chapter 4) consider the economic, environmental, and cultural characteristics of the Long Island Sound coastal region. They represent a balance between economic development and preservation that will permit beneficial use of and prevent adverse effects on the Sound's coastal resources.
Reflecting existing State laws and authorities, these regional policies take the place of the statewide policies of the New York State Coastal Management Program. The policies are the basis for federal and state consistency determinations for activities affecting the Long Island Sound coastal area. They also guide the development of new Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs (LWRP) and revisions to approved Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs in the region.
Three types of special management areas emerged from the analysis: Maritime Centers, Waterfront Redevelopment Areas, and Regionally Important Natural Areas. Not only do these areas represent the extremes of development—those places where development clearly should not be encouraged and those places to where it should be directed—they also form the framework for the work on the Long Island Sound:
- Maritime Centers focus on the working coast where State investment would bolster water-dependent commerce and industry. Such investments, combined with other incentives and regulatory streamlining, will mean the more efficient operation of harbors, while at the same time protecting and improving natural resources and water quality. The ten areas are Port Chester, Mamaroneck Harbor, New Rochelle Harbor/Echo Bay, City Island, Manorhaven/Port Washington, Glen Cove, Huntington Harbor, Northport Harbor, Port Jefferson, and Mattituck Inlet.
- Waterfront Redevelopment Areas are where State efforts that encourage concentration of new growth to revitalize older urban waterfronts will be focused. Targeting investment in these areas will reduce urban sprawl, protect open areas, and reclaim abandoned public and private investment.
- Regionally Important Natural Areas are areas with significant coastal resources that are sensitive to development. Here the State's priority is resource protection. Among the natural coastal areas are Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor, Crab Meadow-Fresh Pond, and Stony Brook-Setauket Harbors.
Other Important Recommendations in the Program Included:
- Public access on the Sound shore can be increased by creating a system of greenways and blueways to link public recreation and access areas.
- Key wetlands along the Long Island Sound coast are identified for restoration. The regional analysis presents a wetlands mitigation strategy to ensure "no net loss" of wetlands. Together these can achieve a net gain in tidal wetlands.
- The remaining 50% of the Sound's shoreline not already hardened should be maintained in a natural condition, and restored, when feasible.
- New development in coastal high-hazard areas should be discouraged through a variety of incentives and disincentives.
- To improve coastal water quality, management measures should be implemented to reduce nonpoint source pollution from a wide range of pollution-causing activities in the Sound watershed. In important oyster- and clam-producing embayments, such as Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor, the analysis recommends that petroleum transshipment facilities be phased out.
The regional approach to coastal management developed for Long Island Sound strengthens the State's ability to act, rather than react, to influence the future of the coast. The detailed regional analysis gives a clear picture of where State action will make the greatest impact on the largest number of people and solve significant coastal management problems.