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FACT SHEET - Cedar Beach Creek Habitat Restoration Project, Suffolk County, NY

Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
Published Dec. 20, 2023

DESCRIPTION: The Cedar Beach Creek Habitat Restoration Demonstration Project will restore local essential ecosystem functions in the degraded marsh system.  Since 1930, significant marsh loss and degradation from erosion and past filling activities has occurred.  Completion of this project will greatly enhance the 65-acre marsh and beach complex at Cedar Beach Creek.   The project plans to restore two marsh islands 4.75 acres of salt marsh (4.25 acres of low marsh and 0.5 acres of high marsh) through the beneficial use of clean dredged material, install an oyster reef adjacent the marsh islands, restore 1.7 acres of widgeon grass and improve 3 acres of new open water habitat through increased/improved flushing.  The Project Grantee, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, will implement this project with the New York District, in coordination with the Suffolk County Parks and the Peconic Estuary Program to improve this 65-acre marsh, beach, and open water mosaic. This project will establish and enhance three critical marine habitats in the Peconic Estuary which is an EPA designated "Estuary of National Significance."  

AUTHORIZATION: Estuary Restoration Act of 2000, Title I of Public Law 106-457 of the Estuaries and Clean Waters Act of 2000, as amended (33 U.S.C. 2901). 

STATUS: The Assistant Secretary of the Army of Civil Works (ASA(CW)) approved the restoration proposal in September 2013 for implementation within Cedar Beach County Park.  The USACE and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and Suffolk County Parks (the landowner) negotiated a Cooperative Agreement (including a Project Management Plan, Monitoring Plan and Real Estate Plan) in 2014.  Suffolk County subsequently passed a resolution (No. 725-2014) July 29, 2014 to advance the project.  Due to liability issues, execution of the Cooperative Agreement was delayed in order to collect sediment samples (July 2016) and passage of a second County Resolution (No. 360-2017) on May 31, 2017.  Following passage of the County Resolutions, Cornell and Suffolk County Parks signed the Cooperative Agreement in August 2017.  The agreement was submitted to HQUSACE in November 2017 and was subsequently approved by the ASA(CW) for execution in May 2018. 

Cornell has established pre-construction baseline conditions from the conduct of biological surveys (oysters, widgeon grass and fish), topographic/bathymetric surveys and sediment characterization (grain size and confirmed uncontaminated).  Engineering designs were prepared and finalized following coordination with the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) including NYSDEC, USACE, NOAA, USFWS, Suffolk County, Peconic Estuary Committee, NY Audubon, Southold Town.  NEPA compliance, local (Suffolk County Full Environmental Assessment Form [EAF]), State and Federal (EAF per NYS Environmental Quality Review [SEQR] and joint NYSDEC and USACE Permit) permits were initiated in January 2021 to secure permits for construction.  USACE NYD Public Notice was issued on June 2, 2021 (expiration date: July 1, 2021) and NYSDOS consistency was granted (June 14, 2021). 

The current plan and status are outlined below:

Marsh Island Restoration: Two (2) marsh islands were planned to be constructed with ~15,000 cubic yards of clean dredged material restoring a total of 5 acres of habitat.  A portion of the material will be allocated from maintenance dredging of Cedar Beach Creek’s Inlet by Suffolk County. The remaining material would be excavated from four (4) sites located within Cedar Beach Creek that have developed shoals within the creek.   Salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alternaflora) seeds were collected (October 2019 and 2020) from several salt marshes located on the North Fork of Long Island, including extant salt marsh in Cedar Beach Creek.   In addition to the 2,000 Spartina plants propagated and overwintered from 2020, an additional 1,000 Spartina plants were grown during spring 2021 and additional plug trays were seeded in July 2021. Benchmarking of elevations has been completed and 2,000 CYD of sand from a Suffolk County Dredge Project was placed adjacent the restoration site.

Oyster Reef Restoration: An approximately 75-ft-wide by 145-ft-long (0.25 acres) oyster reef consisting of 60,000 eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) spat-on-shell (~100 cubic yards) with a reef perimeter of shell bags filled with oyster and surf clam shells. Cornell has obtained a portion of shell substate to be used for the spat-on-shell oyster reef activities.  Microalgae production (initiated October 2020) and spawning and growth of spat-on-shell oysters is underway in the 2021 hatchery season.

Seagrass Restoration: Within 2 areas of one marsh island, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) will be reestablished.  Locations for seed collection and transplant of widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima) populations were scouted in the Peconic Estuary and seeds were collected in summer of 2021.

As part of the Grantee’s USACE/NYSDEC Joint Permit process, coordination with USFWS and NOAA occurred from July 2021 through November 2022 to address concerns and minimize impacts to the federally threatened piping plover and red knot under the Endangered Species Act.  Following coordination, Cornell re-submitted the design package for the Joint Permit on December 16, 2022 and the Public Notice was reposted on January 25, 2023. Cornell responded to USFWS comments and concurrence was completed 25 Sept 2023. Outstanding actions include: receipt of comments from NYSDEC (Tidal Wetlands and Wildlife Divisions), issuance of the NYSDEC Water Quality Certificate, completion of NOAA and NMFS Essential Fish Habitat coordination, obtain NYSDOS CZM concurrence, issuance of USACE Permit, and obtain Town of Southold Wetland permit. Once permitting is complete, construction is planned for the fall of 2024 based on the constraints of environmental windows (1 January through 1 September). 

Estimated Federal Cost: $ 480,000
Estimated Non-Federal Cost: $248,782
Total Project Cost (cost shared) $728,782
Additional Federal funds provided for New York District Labor: $100,000

Ms. Lisa Baron,
Project Manager
P: (917) 790-8306 and (646) 385-1429 (cell)
Email: lisa.a.baron@usace.army.mil
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
26 Federal Plaza
New York, NY 10278