For the first time, East End towns matching federal funds for Peconic Estuary program

Southold Town plans to contribute $24,500 from its general funds to the Peconic Estuary Partnership, a national program dedicated to improving water quality in the Peconic watershed.

Towns across the East End have agreed for the first time to collectively match a portion of federal funds to the estuary program this year, said executive director Joyce Novak.

“The Town of Southold was unanimously supportive of this notion this year,” she said. “We’re really excited, because it’s a huge commitment to improve water quality in the watershed and we’re really excited to work closely with the Town Board and communities in Southold.”

Peconic Estuary Partnership is currently partnered with several stakeholders to conduct wetland restoration on Narrow River Road in Orient and is working with the Village of Greenport and Safe Harbor Marinas to obtain state funds to improve sewers in the area. Plans from the program to reduce pollutant runoff into local water bodies include Hashamomuck Creek, Town and Jockey creeks and Richmond Creek in Southold.

Shelter Island, Southampton and East Hampton all plan to contribute funds to Peconic Estuary Partnership for water quality preservation through their community preservation funds. Riverhead plans to contribute a town engineer to a wetlands project there.

“With this influx of local government money, we’ll really be able to move forward on some of the priorities and our comprehensive management plan, which we rolled out in 2020,” Ms. Novak said.

Part of the funds from Southold will be used for a diversity and inclusion initiative. Ms. Novak said the organization, which does not have “a very diverse management and policy board or technical advisory committee,” is working to be more inclusive.

“I think it’s very important when there are whole communities — which, even though we produce materials in other languages and we do outreach in these areas — that we can do more,” she said.

The initiative, which will also be funded by East Hampton, includes a plan to hire a contractor to develop a diversity and inclusion strategy, help find tools to improve community outreach and to “directly engage with these communities and bring them to the table so that they have a voice in what we do,” Ms. Novak said.

“I think that’s extremely important for this organization, because we represent all of the communities on the East End of Long Island,” she added.

Funds from Southold will also be used for staffing, travel, education and local incentive programs to improve water quality.

The organization, which is authorized under the Clean Water Act, is annually funded by the federal government through the Environmental Protection Agency. This year, Peconic Estuary Partnership was allocated $700,000 in federal funds.

The organization was also granted $450,000 in state funding through the Environmental Protection Fund this year — an increase from $200,000 in past years.