This article was originally published on February 26, 2024 as part of the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan (LINAP) Newsletter. You can read more about the collaborative efforts of LINAP on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) website. Eric Swenson, who serves as both the Executive Director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee and the author of this piece, is also a member of the Long Island Sound Study’s Citizens Advisory Committee. The Long Island Sound Futures Fund has provided over $900,000 in funding for the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee since 2007.

Protection Committees serve as inter-municipal coalitions that provide a coordinated and highly effective approach to improving water quality and solving watershed problems across Long Island. The Island is fortunate to have several Protection Committees that work to protect, restore, and enhance the watersheds that they serve.  

Protection Committees develop and implement planning studies, capital improvement projects, educational outreach, water quality monitoring, information and technology sharing, coordination of enforcement, and collaboration. They also track and comment on proposed laws and regulations and aid member municipalities in carrying out the federal and state-mandated municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) requirements. Long Island’s Protection Committees collectively represent over fifty Long Island municipalities. 

In this month’s LINAP newsletter Eric Swenson, the Executive Director of Hempstead Harbor’s Protection Committee’s (HHPC)—the first of its kind on Long Island—shares the important work undertaken by HHPC, the challenges encountered along the way, and the notable achievements attained. 

Reflecting on Hempstead Harbor’s past, Eric recounted a time in the 1970s when the harbor faced severe environmental degradation. A sobering articled by Newsday, titled “Who’s Killing Hempstead Harbor,” shone a spotlight on the myriad of threats facing this once-thriving waterway. Rotting wooden barges marred the landscape and oxygen-deprived waters led to periodic fish kills. Beach closures due to high bacteria levels, sewage discharge from the aging Roslyn treatment plant, and the presence of superfund sites along its shores painted a bleak picture. 

A newspaper clipping with the headline " Who's Killing Hempstead Harbor?".

In response to these alarming conditions, concerned citizens formed the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, advocating for the harbor’s preservation.  However, despite these grassroots efforts, the governmental bodies surrounding the harbor addressed issues independently, and often faced a shortage of resources. Recognizing the urgent need for coordinated and collective action, then Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, now State Comptroller, and former Sea Cliff Mayor Ted Blackburn conceptualized the idea of a Protection Committee and secured funding from the New York State Department of State in 1995 to create the HHPC. The nine municipalities, Nassau County, City of Glen Cove, Town of North Hempstead, Town of Oyster Bay, Village of Flower Hill, Village of Roslyn, Village of Roslyn Harbor, Village of Sands Point, and the Village of Sea Cliff each signed an inter-municipal agreement, marking the birth of Long Island’s first watershed-based inter-municipal coalition.  

Since its inception, HHPC has made significant strides in revitalizing Hempstead Harbor, and serves as a model for collaborative environmental stewardship. Its success has inspired similar initiatives. “Three years after we were formed, the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee was formed. And then came the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee. There are now Protection Committees in Northport Harbor, the Peconic Estuary, and Accabonac Harbor.  And there are efforts underway right now to form a Protection Committee in the Port Jefferson area, further advancing the cause of harbor preservation and sustainability,” said Eric. 

Central to the HHPC’s strategy was the development of a Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP) —a comprehensive study that has since become the blueprint guiding HHPC’s efforts to restore and protect the harbor. The Plan divided the harbor into sub-watersheds, identifying sources of pollution and critical areas in need of targeted intervention. Over the years following the WQIP, the committee’s efforts paid off, as successful initiatives led to tangible improvements in water quality and ecosystem health. Grants totaling approximately $3 million were secured for vital infrastructure projects, including the restoration of Scudders Pond. “Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, we started addressing one subwatershed at a time. Scudders Pond was identified as the worst subwatershed (in the WQIP) and so we put a lot of effort into its restoration. There’s a lot of very steep hills and the stormwater would runoff into Scudders Pond and over time it filled with sediment, which then reduced the pond’s ability to serve as natural biofiltration before it discharged into Hempstead Harbor,” explained Eric. With the grant funding in place, over 5,000 cubic yards of contaminated material was dredged from the pond, invasive plant species were removed, and the shoreline was rebuilt using imported sand and replenished with locally grown native plant species. Storm drainage was installed, and two dams were reconstructed to maintain the original size and depth of the pond. Water quality monitoring was conducted prior to, during, and following construction and the results show significant improvement in the water quality entering Hempstead Harbor. Today, the pond is a regulated wetland that continues to act as a filter for runoff into Hempstead Harbor.

A pond surrounded by trees.
Scudders Pond, Village of Sea Cliff, NY. Photo Credit: Galvin Brothers

Since its beginning, the HHPC has been at the forefront of stormwater management, spurred by the recognition in the WQIP that stormwater is the main source of pollution in Hempstead Harbor. One critical initiative is providing guidance and assistance to member municipalities in carrying out the federal and state-mandated municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) requirements. This is critical because it saves municipal members time and money toward compliance as many of the activities (i.e., septic system education, outreach/stewardship activities) undertaken by HHPC can be counted toward each of the municipalities’ stormwater compliance requirements.  “There’s a complex set of requirements and deadlines for municipalities to comply with, posing challenges, especially for smaller municipalities,” Eric states. “Municipalities are facing over 80 deadlines within the next five years, including various types of training for employees and the creation of ten different plans. We, the Protection Committees, can alleviate the workload by sharing responsibilities.” 

When the HHPC was formed in 1995, the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, had already established a comprehensive water quality monitoring program in the harbor. The HHPC decided to adopt and support this existing program. The monitoring program has expanded over the years and was largely funded through grants obtained by HHPC. The core program (May to October) involves weekly monitoring at up to 21 locations. A comprehensive Annual Hempstead Harbor Water Quality Report is prepared each year which analyzes the data and describes any trends. The 2023 Report is anticipated to be released later in the year.  

The critical importance of regular monitoring is identifying and addressing environmental issues promptly. This became evident during an incident where high bacteria levels were detected in Glen Cove Creek, leading to the discovery and repair of a broken sewer main. “Once we identified the sewer main break and it was repaired, the levels went down. But if we weren’t out there monitoring, that could have gone on for years. It could have closed the shellfish beds that we spent so much effort to try to open in the mouth of the harbor,” Eric emphasizes. When concerns were raised about future funding for the monitoring program, the HHPC worked to secure a consistent recurring funding source. Starting in 2026, the program is expected to be funded through Long Island Sound Study’s management funds and administered by the Interstate Environmental Commission.  

As Eric just touched on, the HHPC spearheaded a successful campaign to reopen approximately 2,500 acres of the harbor to shellfish harvesting in 2011. The HHPC worked alongside Nassau County, DEC, the Towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, and other stakeholders for this campaign. This marked a significant milestone—it was the first time shellfishing was permitted in the harbor in forty-five years and making it the largest harbor in New York State to reopen in decades. Subsequent efforts, including additional sampling and shellfish planting initiatives, have resulted in further expansions of the program. “We recently received a $300,000 grant that’s going to be able to plant two million oysters seeds per year for the next three years!” said Eric. “We will be able to split the seeding between Hempstead Bay, Manhasset Bay and Oyster Bay to boost the oyster populations in each of the bays and help filter nitrogen.” This serves as a prime example of successful collaboration among the protection committees to protect the harbors.  

2,500 acres of shellfish beds reopened. Photo credit: Eric Swenson

The Protection Committees periodically convene to discuss regulations, legislation, funding, and jointly communicate to state and federal agencies on Island-wide issues. Collaboration extends to projects like Coordinated Environmental Solutions for Septic Problems Occurring On Long Island (C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L.), which raises awareness around the problems with cesspools and septic tanks, providing homeowners with the tools necessary for proper maintenance. “The Committees’ collaborative initiatives and shared advocacy efforts have been successful in fostering environmental resilience and sustainability across the island,” remarked Eric, underscoring the impactful collective work of the protection committees. 

Looking ahead, the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee remains steadfast in its commitment to environmental stewardship. From navigating the intricacies of stormwater permits, educating the public about septic systems, to spearheading habitat restoration projects, their vision transcends municipal boundaries. In their pursuit of a healthier, more resilient harbor, the HHPC stands as an example of the transformative power of collaboration and collective action.  

This article spotlights a sample of women involved in Long Island Sound Study-related activities. 

In March 1987, Congress established Women’s History Month1 to honor the contributions of women throughout American history. Many of these accomplishments were in the field of science, including the nation’s first state water-quality standard, which was determined by sanitary chemistry pioneer Ellen H. Swallow Richards in 18902. Contributions from women involved with the Long Island Sound Study program include water monitoring, research, education, conservation, and restoration efforts throughout the Sound.

A grid mosaic of photos of the women in science featured, overlayed with the Long Island Sound Study logo.
A photo mosaic of women engaged in various science-based activities on Long Island Sound.
Dr. Syma Alexi Ebbin sits on a rock and smiles, holding a camera.
Credit: Syma A. Ebbin

Research Coordinator at Connecticut Sea Grant and Professor in Residence at UConn

Dr. Ebbin administers competitive research funding programs for the Long Island Sound Study and Connecticut Sea Grant. Additionally, she engages in social science research on offshore wind developments, ports, cable landfalls, coastal communities, and the blue economy in Connecticut.

PhD Candidate at UConn

Madeline Kollegger crouches and takes a selfie in the field.
Credit: Madeline Kollegger

Kollegger studies coastal wetland restoration on Long Island Sound and shares her research on Instagram. She is involved in several restoration projects along the Connecticut coastline. Her work involves collecting a variety of samples, such as soil, porewater, greenhouse gas, and conducting vegetation surveys to see how Great Meadows Marsh in Stratford, CT has changed following restoration efforts. Kollegger also researches how soil amendments can be used to prevent the development of acid-sulfate soils in sediment addition projects.

LISS Groups: Habitat Restoration and Stewardship Work Group, Climate Change and Sentinel Monitoring Work Group, Thriving Habitats and Abundant Wildlife CCMP Writing Team

A headshot of Dr. Diane Greenfield.
Credit: Diane Greenfield

Associate Professor at CUNY Advanced Science Research Center and Queens College

Dr. Greenfield is a biological oceanographer who combines fundamental ecology with molecular tools to study feedback between human activity and ecological/biogeochemical processes within coastal ecosystems. Her research emphasizes phytoplankton, as they influence biogeochemical cycling, productivity, and climate. Dr. Greenfield’s work focuses on the causes and consequences of harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and associated planktonic processes. Currently, she is studying the spatial and temporal factors that regulate nutrient-microbiome dynamics within Long Island Sound and nearby embayments, as well as integrating new and more accurate molecular and observatory technologies to inform management strategies.

LISS Groups: Science and Technical Advisory Committee

A headshot of Robin Landeck Miller.
Credit: Robin L. Miller

Water Resources Technical Leader at HDR, Inc.

Throughout Long Island Sound, Miller has developed and applied models for evaluating nitrogen reduction and dissolved oxygen improvement, nutrient bio-extraction, and the potential for watershed pesticide applications to contribute to lobster mortality. Her work also involves connecting water quality assessment, protection, and restoration with management and regulatory policy needs.

LISS Groups: Science and Technical Advisory Committee

Samantha Wilder sits on the edge of a boat out on the water.
Credit: Samantha Wilder

Environmental Analyst with the Interstate Environmental Commission

Wilder is part of a new program that will monitor fecal indicator bacteria in waterways within the Long Island Sound watershed to track down potential sources. In this role, she performs regular water quality monitoring in Manhasset Bay during the recreational season and coordinates a volunteer monitoring program for waters that flow into the New York-New Jersey Harbor.

Martin and Michele Cohen Endowed Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Director of the Bio-Optical Laboratory at the CCNY Center for Discovery and Innovation

A headshot of Dr. Maria Tzortziou.
Credit: Maria Tzortziou

Dr. Tzortziou leads research efforts to understand the impacts of pollution due to human activity and natural stressors on biogeochemical cycles and ecological processes along the inland, wetland, coastal, and open ocean ecosystems. On Long Island Sound, she studies the impacts of excess nutrients, acidification, and hypoxia on water quality and the Sound’s ecological health, noting drivers of harmful algal blooms. Dr. Tzortziou has partnered with regional stakeholders to co-produce satellite data products relevant to water quality and harmful agal bloom outbreaks that support equitable and inclusive access to information for water resource management.

LISS Groups: Science and Technical Advisory Committee

Kimarie Yap wearing a red personal flotation device.
Credit: Kimarie Yap

Environmental Analyst with the Interstate Environmental Commission

Yap is the program manager and coordinator for ambient water quality monitoring on the western Long Island Sound. She collects water samples and measures water quality parameters in the field, processes and analyzes the samples, creates hypoxia interpolation maps with the data, and writes bi-weekly summaries of IEC’s monitoring surveys. Yap is also the project manager and coordinator for IEC’s participation in the Unified Water Study.

LISS Groups: Environmental Justice Work Group

Sarah Crosby, pictured on the left, holds  a plant and dirt.
Credit: Sarah Crosby (left)

Director of Conservation and Policy at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

Dr. Crosby is responsible for shaping the Aquarium’s overall strategy, focusing on the ecosystem of the Sound and the impacts of climate change, marine pollution, and other conservation issues. Her work with the Long Island Sound Study focuses on the protection of species and habitats.

LISS Groups: Habitat Restoration and Stewardship Work Group, Citizens Advisory Committee, Science and Technical Advisory Committee, Climate Change and Sentinel Monitoring Work Group

Life Scientist at U.S. EPA, Region 2

Cayla Sullivan underwater in an eelgrass meadow.
Credit: Cayla Sullivan

As the EPA Habitat and Reporting Coordinator for the Long Island Sound Study, Sullivan manages the implementation of the Long Island Sound Eelgrass Management and Restoration Strategy. This includes increasing communication through the Long Island Sound Eelgrass Collaborative, improving water quality, mapping, and monitoring in eelgrass meadows, updating habitat suitability models, and better understanding eelgrass resiliency in a changing climate. To communicate the importance of eelgrass to the public, Sullivan published a StoryMap showcasing results of ongoing EPA research to estimate eelgrass extent using satellite imagery and connect distribution trends to water quality data. She is working to become an EPA Diver to continue to help in the restoration, management, and protection of eelgrass in Long Island Sound.

LISS Groups: Long Island Sound Eelgrass Collaborative, Habitat Restoration and Stewardship Work Group, Indicators Review Team

Kyra Lin smiles, holding a testing device for water quality.
Credit: Kimarie Yap

Seasonal Intern at the Interstate Environmental Commission

Lin assists with western Long Island Sound monitoring activities and IEC’s participation in the Unified Water Study. Her work includes collecting samples and measuring water quality parameters in the field, processing, and analyzing samples in the lab.

Victoria O’Neill measuring the elevation change of coastal marsh sediment at West Pond in Glen Cove, NY.
Credit: NYSDEC

Director of Coastal Resilience at Audubon CT/NY

O’Neill works to make coastal bird habitats, and their associated coastal communities, in NY and CT, more resilient to climate change through the implementation of coastal habitat restoration projects and nature-based features. Audubon actively restores habitat in both states and works to influence policy changes directed at coastal resiliency and coastal habitat protection and restoration.

LISS groups: Habitat Restoration and Stewardship Work Group, Citizens Advisory Committee, Sustainable and Resilient Communities Work Group

A selfie of Nikki Spiller steering a research vessel.
Credit: Nikki Spiller

Director of Harbor Watch at Earthplace

Spiller helps to conduct water quality monitoring throughout Fairfield County as well as develop environmental education programs for high school and college students. Her monitoring focuses on using pathogens to identify and isolate sewage pollution sources and work with municipal partners to remove them from the watershed. Spiller also studies fish and crustacean abundance and diversity, participates in the Unified Water Study, serves as co-lead of the Pathogen Monitoring Network, conducts salt marsh research, and has started to get involved with marine debris removal.

LISS Groups: Watersheds and Embayments Work Group, Citizens Advisory Committee

Julie Rose bends down to look at a table of research samples.
Credit: Julie Rose

Research Ecologist at NOAA Fisheries

Dr. Rose’s work informs marine policy and resource management through research on the environmental benefits provided by shellfish. Shellfish can remove nutrients, improve water clarity, and provide a habitat for wild fish. She collaborates with scientists and stakeholders to collect and synthesize data on these benefits and communicates findings to people interested in shellfish and the environment.

LISS Groups: Science and Technical Advisory Committee

Credit: Jo-Kasinak Marie

Former Professor of Biology at Sacred Heart University

The late Dr. Mattei helped bring climate resiliency projects to Long Island Sound, installing one of the first nature-based living shoreline projects at Stratford Point in 2013. Mattei also founded Project Limulus, a participatory science monitoring project focused on protecting the horseshoe crab. She worked to conserve horseshoe crabs globally serving as a member of the Horseshoe Crab Specialists Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Locally, Mattei mentored dozens of research students, gave public lectures to thousands of people, and helped tag over 98,000 horseshoe crabs to better understand their patterns of movement and track their abundance. You can donate to the Jennifer H. Mattei Scholarship for Undergraduate Research here.


  1. “Women’s History Month.” n.d. National Women’s History Museum. ↩︎
  2. Rayner-Canham, Marelene and Geoffrey Rayner. (1998). The first generation of professional women chemists. Women in chemistry: Their changing roles from alchemical times to the mid-twentieth century (pp. 51-55). Danvers, MA: American Chemical Society and Chemical Heritage Foundation. ↩︎
A middle-aged white women poses against a fence and smiles in a selfie taken next to a large pink flower.
Photo courtesy of Lynn Dwyer.

Lynn Dwyer has had a long career in conservation. Over 26 years to be exact, most of which were spent working for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as program director of the Long Island Sound Futures Fund. She is retiring in March of this year, leaving behind a legacy of over 640 grants and $56 million invested into Long Island Sound conservation projects.

A native of Long Island’s South Shore, Dwyer holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University. She started her career in the private sector working in marketing for a banker training company in Washington, DC, and an accounting software company in San Francisco. Her interest in conservation was sparked during graduate school at San Francisco State University while pursuing a master’s in public administration.

“I really wasn’t sure where I was going to focus and then I did an economics project on establishing the value of endangered species and habitat,” said Dwyer. “I loved it.”

Dwyer wrote her graduate thesis on an innovative endangered species program rolled out by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This led to her first experience working in the environmental sector.

“I gained a real appreciation for the economics of nature, but also nature itself,” she said.

A conservation career in California was born, as Dwyer worked in water quality and endangered species projects for the state. She joined Sustainable Conservation, a regional non-profit, and worked at the Environmental Defense Fund. After six years, Dwyer relocated to New York to be closer to family. That’s when she settled into her role as program director at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, drawing upon her diverse skill set of field experience and conservation management knowledge.

“I think I have a good sense of what it takes to do field-based conservation, not just biology, but partnerships, funding, working within governmental systems and processes,” said Dwyer. “I like to believe my knowledge and expertise helped me facilitate good conservation by people and the organizations served by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Long Island Sound Futures Fund.”

As program director Dwyer maintained a long-time collaboration with Mark Tedesco, director of EPA’s Long Island Sound office in Stamford.

“Lynn has helped build the Futures Fund from the ground up into a trusted, innovative, and vital program to galvanize community participation in the protection and conservation of Long Island Sound,” said Tedesco.  “We have been fortunate to have her skill, passion, and wry sense of humor contribute so much to the success of the Futures Fund.”

Over the past 20 years, she’s acted as a grantee for a range of projects in Clean Waters and Healthy Watersheds, Thriving Habitats and Abundant Wildlife, and Sustainable and Resilient Communities, three of the major themes of the Long Island Sound Study’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Dwyer recalled three projects that stood out from her career:

  • The Unified Water Study, launched in 2017, is a collaborative citizen science project developing water quality monitoring protocols so that groups across Long Island Sound can collect comparable data.
  • The habitat acquisition and restoration of Great Meadows Marsh in Stratford, the largest un-ditched salt marsh in Connecticut.
  • The Pee-Cycling Program at the Rich Earth Institute in Vermont collects and converts human urine into rich fertilizer.

“That’s innovative conservation [Pee-Cycling],” said Dwyer. “I mean, it’s got national attention.”

Dwyer said that improving water quality is the most significant of the conservation areas for the suburban and urban environment of the Sound.

“Water quality is such a cross-cutting issue,” said Dwyer. “If we improve water quality, we improve habitat. Wetlands stop degrading. Eelgrass grows. We can fish and swim,” said Dwyer. “If we improve water quality, we improve quality of life in communities.”

Peter Linderoth, Director of Water Quality at Save the Sound, expressed that Lynn has been a crucial contributor to Long Island Sound projects, providing leadership from design to implementation.

“She helped solve problems, achieve results, and guide projects to fruition,” said Linderoth. “We wish Lynn all the best and plenty of adventures in her well-deserved retirement.”

A group of four middle-aged women are posed together, with two women in each kayak smiling for the photo. The kayaks are blue and there is green and tan seagrass in the background. The two women in front are wearing sunglasses and hats. They all have life vests, the two women on the left are wearing blue ones. the women on the front right is in read and the back right corner is in a teal vest.
Lynn and a group of friends kayak along the Nissequogue River in New York. Photo courtesy of Lynn Dwyer.

While Dwyer will no longer be supporting conservation efforts as a grant professional, she remains determined to be a lifelong steward of the environment.

“I enjoy kayaking,” said Dwyer. “And I want to be a good and smart volunteer so that I leave behind the things I care about in a better place.”

When asked about her final call to action, Dwyer cited climate change efforts.

“I don’t think I would get any argument from my colleagues, partners, grantees, applicants, really anybody that the biggest issue that we are facing short, mid, and long-term is climate. We are going to have to improve our game significantly to address that issue and to make sure that nature-based solutions are part of it,” said Dwyer.

One of Lynn’s favorite projects, Great Meadows Marsh exemplifies LISS’s nature-based resiliency efforts. Roughly half of the marsh’s acreage was lost due to habitat destruction and sea level rise occurring over the past century. With the Futures Fund contributing to a large restoration effort, the marsh is on its way to recovery.

While Lynn plans to keep her “home base” near the Great South Bay in Long Island, she hopes to continue to explore America’s natural resources and will miss the friendship that the Long Island Sound Study has brought her.

“The people are so wholeheartedly committed to improving their world, the environment, and Long Island Sound,” said Dwyer. “So, I get real pleasure from that. That’s my best memory, and my happiest feeling – to have served that community.”

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