DEEP: NERR Home Page

A National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR)
for Long Island Sound

Status Update: 

The process to nominate a CT NERR has identified a preferred site, which includes the following state-owned properties:

  • Lord Cove Wildlife Management Area; Great Island Wildlife Management Area; Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve and Natural Area Preserve; Haley Farm State Park; and the public trust portions of waterbodies defined by:
    1. Long Island Sound ranging approximately west to east from the mouth of the Connecticut River to Mason’s Island and north to south waterward of the mean high water shoreline to just shy of the Connecticut state boundary in Long Island Sound;    
    2. the area waterward of the mean high shoreline of the lower Thames River from approximately the Gold Star Bridge south to the area described in 1. above;      
    3. the area waterward of the mean high shoreline of the lower Connecticut River from approximately Lord Cove south to the area described in 1. above.
Connecticut has submitted a site nomination to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as of January 3, 2019.  More information on the nomination and the selection process can be found under the “NERR Team Information Meetings-Agendas-Minutes” link below.  Once a decision from NOAA is received, we will update this page accordingly.
Long Island Sound is one of the state's greatest natural treasures.  The Sound provides countless recreational opportunities, serves as a critical habitat for fish and other marine wildlife, and improves the quality of life in Connecticut.
{Photo of a tidal wetland}
However, like other estuaries around the country, Long Island Sound is constantly threatened by pressures from development, pollution, invasive species, and the effects of climate change, to name just a few.  Connecticut's Coastal Management Program (CMP) was established in 1980 to better coordinate efforts at the municipal, state, and federal levels of government to better protect Long Island Sound and its resources.  The Blue Plan for Long Island Sound, underway in 2015, will inventory Long Island Sound's natural resources and uses and, ultimately, develop a spatial plan to help guide future use of the Sound's waters and submerged lands.
And yet, the constant barrage of threats to Long Island Sound makes it more important than ever to supplement these existing efforts with additional information to help make critical management decisions affecting Connecticut's coastal resources.  One such source of additional information can be found within the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.
What is a National Estuarine Research Reserve?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) System is a network of 28 coastal areas designated to protect and study estuarine systems.

Created by the Coastal Zone Management Act, the reserves are a formal partnership between NOAA and coastal states. NOAA provides funding, guidance, and technical assistance. Each reserve is managed by a lead state agency or university, with input from local partners. The reserves cover 1.3 million acres of estuaries and focus on Resource Stewardship, Training, and Education. 

{Photo of a rocky shorefront}
Why does Connecticut need a Reserve?
A healthy and productive Long Island Sound is our greatest natural resource and contributes an estimated 7 billion dollars annually to the regional economy.  The Sound, like other estuaries around the country, is constantly threatened by development, pollution, invasive species, and the effects of climate change– to name just a few. These and other threats underscore the need to have the right information in order to make critical management decisions affecting our coastal resources.
The national Reserve System is a vital program that can help provide the information decision-makers need.  Connecticut, however, is one of only two salt-water coastal states without one. A Connecticut-based Reserve would complement and extend the activities of programs like the EPA National Estuary Program, the Connecticut Coastal Management Program, the Connecticut Sea Grant office, and various academic institutions through the addition of funding, resources, and expertise. Additionally, it would enable new directions and initiatives by leveraging nation-wide programs. The health of the Sound’s ecosystem and the state economy can only benefit from establishing a Reserve.

How can Connecticut establish a Reserve?
The State and NOAA have instituted an effort to select and designate a Reserve through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Land and Water Resources Division (LWRD).  LWRD has subsequently engaged the UConn Marine Sciences Department and the Connecticut SeaGrant office to form a leadership team to guide the process.  The first step will begin with an evaluation focused on evaluating existing lands already held in protection, and engage a diverse range of expertise and interests in the coastal area. Public information meetings will be held to present information and solicit input. The process itself will apply an expansive suite of environmental and organizational criteria to evaluate various potential locations and will culminate in a formal report nominating a site. 

Following an approval from NOAA, the State, with assistance from NOAA, will then work to develop and submit a management plan for NOAA review. At the same time NOAA, with the State’s assistance, will develop Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statements for the designation. When the reserve is approved by NOAA, the State and NOAA will sign a Memorandum of Understanding designating the operation of the new reserve.

For more information on the process to establish a Reserve in Connecticut, please see the Frequently Asked Questions About a Research Reserve for Connecticut; email; join the DEEP NERR List Serv to receive notification of NERR team meetings, web postings, and other information; or contact:

Kevin P. O’Brien
Environmental Analyst
Land and Water Resources Division
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06106-5127
Phone: 860.424.3432
Fax: 860.424.4054 
Content Last Updated April 3, 2019