A unique program that allowed for a small number of homeowners in Southold and Southampton towns to earn a rebate of up to $500 for installing rain gardens, rain barrels or other forms of “conservation landscaping” on their properties has been expanded to include a portion of Riverhead and other areas.
The Peconic Estuary Rewards Program, which was previously only available to residents near Hashamomuck Pond in Southold and Reeve’s Bay in Flanders, is now available to any homeowner within the boundaries of the Peconic Bay Watershed — a stretch of land that extends from Ridge across the five East End Towns. In Riverhead Town, the watershed covers properties south of Route 58 and even some north of there. (View the boundary map here.)
The goal of the program is to prevent pollutants from entering the watershed through improvements made to private properties. There are three types of improvements that qualify:
• Replacing a minimum of 50 square feet of pavement, turf grass or lawn with native plants.
• Installing a 50 square foot rain garden, which uses rainfall to water plants in the garden but also filters out contaminants the water might have picked up before returning to the ground.
• The installation of a 50-gallon rain barrel, which collects and stores rainwater that can be recycled in a garden rather than being lost to runoff.
Officials with the Peconic Estuary Committee spoke with the Southold Town Board Tuesday morning to discuss the benefits of the program and spread the word of its expansion. They said there is $150,000 available, which town engineer Michael Collins said that at the maximum-rebate value could benefit up to 300 homes in the watershed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Previously only 15 homeowners in the Hashamomuck Pond watershed — and even fewer around Reeves Bay — have taken advantage of the program, officials said.
An in-depth presentation on the rewards program is planned for March 14 at Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport. Other meetings are also being discussed.