To preserve the Georgica Pond ecosystem for future generations through science-based, watershed-wide policy and restoration.
The Challenges of Georgica Pond
This beloved body of water is threatened by excessive nutrient input, which has led to macro and blue-green micro algae blooms. These events are caused by antiquated septic systems and overuse of fertilizers over a period of decades in the entire watershed.
Georgica Pond is a coastal pond located between East Hampton Village and Wainscott on the south shore of Eastern Long Island. It is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by an approximately 100 foot wide sandbar. The pond itself and the ocean beach are managed by the East Hampton Town Trustees who oversee a cycle of opening the pond to the ocean approximately twice a year in mid-March and mid-October to flush out nutrients and sediments, and regulate the water level. This historic tradition dates back to the 1600’s when Native Americans dug the opening manually. Today it is done by heavy equipment.
With a surface area of 290 acres and a maximum depth of 6 feet, the pond is fed by springs and groundwater, which mix with ocean water to form a brackish ecosystem whose salinity can vary tremendously depending on whether the pond is opened or closed to the ocean.
The Georgica Pond Watershed
The Watershed of Georgica Pond is a large drainage area where surface and groundwater eventually drain into Georgica Pond and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. The Georgica Pond watershed consists of a mix of land uses including industrial (including the East Hampton airport), the Wainscott business district, residential, farmland and preserved open space. Habitats include mixed oak forest with a large area of Pine Barrens habitat near the airport. The watershed is approximately 4,000 acres, 59% of which is developed, 34% of which is undeveloped and 8% is water. There are approximately 2,000 homes in the watershed of which approximately 75 front directly on the pond.
Wildlife, Fishing, and Crabbing
Georgica Pond provides vital habitat to snapping turtles and both resident and migrating birds. Two species of concern, including the endangered Piping Plover and the threatened Least Tern, nest between the pond and the ocean. Ospreys fish regularly and ducks are abundant in winter. Baymen still harvest blue crabs and trap eels, white bait and perch.
Residents and Visitors
Georgica Pond is home to many high profile residents from the entertainment, media and creative communities, as well as from the financial world. As a result, colorful articles have been written about the pond, its residents, and various legends.
Residents and visitors alike enjoy boating as a favorite summer activity. There are sailing races on the pond every Saturday, and canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are available to rent at the rest stop on Route 27 in Wainscott.
Georgica Pond’s water quality has declined dramatically and in recent years, the pond has experienced:
- macro and blue-green microalgae blooms
- low oxygen levels
- fish kills
In many cases, the blue-green algal blooms produce toxins, which are harmful and even fatal to pets and have resulted in closing the pond to crabbing, fishing and swimming.
In addition, the aggressive, non-native grass Phragmites australis has invaded much of the shoreline– further contributing to eutrophication of the pond.
Nutrient Loading Models of Georgica Pond
These Independent, hybrid models of nitrogen and phosphorus loading into Georgica Pond were developed by Dr. Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University. The models show the different sources of the two key nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus that are the main causes of algal blooms. Wastewater from septic systems is the largest contributor of nitrogen while pond bottom sediments are the largest contributor of phosphorus.
To document the cause of the above threats and provide a scientific analysis and a sustainable plan for remediation of these environmental and human health risks, Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation engaged Dr. Christopher J. Gobler of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences to conduct a two-year study.
One of the most immediate developments of Dr. Gobler’s study is the installation of a telemetry buoy that allows for continuous monitoring of multiple water quality and chemistry characteristics. You can find out what’s happening at Georgica Pond 24 hours a day by clicking here.
You can also read his report, presented to the community on August 1st, 2015 by clicking here.
Dr. Gobler’s preliminary recommendations include short and long term actions and goals, which working in partnership with local governments and nonprofits, the Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation hopes to accomplish:
- Harvest macro algae to remove nitrogen and phosphorus and improve aesthetics.
- Research Permeable Reactive Barriers to mitigate high nitrogen groundwater before it enters the pond in targeted locations. This is an experimental technique that has shown to be effective in other locations.
- Dredging accumulated sand and excavating the ocean inlet and bottlenecks at Georgica Cove to improve pond water circulation.
- Excavating Phragmites and replacing or encouraging native wetland vegetation at targeted locations.
- A pilot project of beneficial dredging of muds to remove legacy nutrients (especially phosphorus) and improve water circulation in the pond.
- Advocating for responsible use of fertilizer and pesticides by farms and homeowners.
- Supporting vegetative buffer zones and reduction of the amount of lawn within the watershed.
- Advocating for and installing state of the art wastewater treatment in the watershed, as wastewater is the largest source of nitrogen to the pond.
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