PEP: Your garden can protect the bay

Neighbors of Hashamomuck Pond will soon have help redesigning their gardens to help the pond
Neighbors of Hashamomuck Pond, pictured here, now have help redesigning their gardens to help the pond

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to help homeowners in the Hashamomuck Pond and Reeves Bay watersheds keep the bays clean by changing the way they garden.

The Peconic Estuary Program, which is part of the National Estuary Program, will be distributing up to $500 apiece from the EPA program to residents who sign up for the program who live near Hashamomuck Pond, on the border of Southold and Greenport, and near Reeves Bay in Flanders, allowing them to plant rain gardens with native plants and to put rain barrels on their properties.

The Peconic Estuary Program mailed out notices to the nearly 500 people in the Hashamomuck Pond watershed eligible for this new “Bayscapes” program last week, and plans to mail out letters to the approximately 1,200 homes in the Reeves Bay watershed in early fall, said Jennifer Skilbred, a senior environmental advocate with Group for the East End, which does the estuary program’s environmental outreach.

“Hashamomuck sub-watershed and Reeves Bay sub-watershed were both selected for this pilot program because they were the first in a series of impaired water bodies that Peconic Estuary Program developed sub-watershed management plans for in regards to storm water runoff,” said Ms. Skilbred this week. “One thing that both of these management plans calls for is encouraging homeowners to manage storm water on their own property, in order to augment the work being done on public lands. This program is designed to provide people with more information about the Peconic Estuary and the issues it faces as well as provide them with an easy way they can get involved in protecting and restoring the Peconic Estuary.”

A similar program has already been instituted in the Chesapeake Bay National Estuary.

The program provides up to $250 to people who replace 50 square feet of pavement, turf grass or lawn with native plants, up to $250 to people who install a rain garden of at least 50 square feet, using guidelines available here and up to $100 to people who install a rain barrel at least 50 gallons big, based on guidelines available here. Each homeowner can apply for up to $500 in rewards.

“With stormwater runoff, water hits the property, picks up fertilizer and pesticides, and travels out the driveway to the bay,” said Ms. Skilbred. “Rain gardens actually trap the water as it falls on the property. It stays longer, plants get to use it, and then it filters into the ground. By using native plants, you’re reducing the need for any pesticides and fertilizers.”

Ms. Skillbred said the letters mailed out to residents include an application which should be mailed in for feedback before homeowners begin doing the work.

“We’re asking that people fill them out and send them to us, so we can provide feedback so they don’t do a project on their property assuming they’ll get rewards,” she said. Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

People who believe they live in the watersheds but do not receive a letter can email Ms. Skilbred at jskilbred@eastendenvironment.org to see if they are eligible for the program. Ms. Skilbred said the program may be expanded if these two pilot projects prove successful.

“We’re hoping they’re successful, and we’re hoping to do more in the future,” she said.

Properties in Bay View Pines and Water's Edge in Flanders back up to Reeve's Bay, which has suffered from runoff from homes and streets.
Properties in Bay View Pines and Water’s Edge in Flanders back up to Reeve’s Bay, which has suffered from runoff from landscaped yards and streets.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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