Sasco Brook, CT © R. Lowenthal, TNC
Planning and Guidance

Guidance for Community Decision Makers

Communities depend upon clean, coastal waters for recreation, tourism, boating, fishing and plentiful seafood. By setting and meeting nitrogen limits in coastal rivers, harbors and bays, we can restore and sustain healthy conditions now and for future generations. By taking critical steps, community members and leaders can identify the sources of land-based nitrogen pollution impacting coastal waters – and apply solutions where they will be most effective.

1. Assess nitrogen problems using best available science and monitoring

  • Calculate coastal nitrogen loads from human sources
  • Identify impacts from nitrogen pollution by reviewing water quality data, monitoring reports and studies
  • Set restoration endpoints that restore ecological health and protect swimming and fishing
    • Evidence-based pollution thresholds are used to determine the amount of nitrogen an embayment can handle while still supporting a desired condition – such as the absence of harmful algal blooms or the presence of seagrass.
    • US EPA is studying options for ecological endpoints and nitrogen thresholds for Long Island Sound embayments.
    • Southern New England and New York Seagrass Research (TNC 2014) evaluates conditions and estimates nitrogen thresholds supportive of eelgrass recovery.

2. Build collaborative, watershed-based nitrogen reduction plans

  • Engage a variety of stakeholders in plan development to get diverse points of view, enhance public understanding and encourage early and ongoing participation in solutions
    • Hold public meetings and presentations
    • Develop communications, publications and media releases
    • Solicit feedback through surveys and online media outlets
  • Set nitrogen reduction targets that protect swimming, fishing and ecological health
  • Select technology and practice alternatives
  • Identify funding sources and policy gaps
    • Estimate financial and technical resources needed to implement projects (including installation and ongoing oversight or monitoring)
    • Identify policy barriers to project implementation
    • Identify the entity responsible for implementing the plan

3. Take actions to reduce nitrogen

4. Track nitrogen reduction progress

5. Adjust actions to improve nitrogen reduction for clean coastal water

  • Review progress toward reduction targets
  • Revise plans, strategies and targets as necessary to achieve success