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East End Long Island Golf Courses Pledge to Reduce Fertilizer Use; 88 Percent Take Innovative Challenge from EPA, New York State and Other Public-Private Partners

Release Date: 09/22/2004
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(#04139) NEW YORK -- More than 88 percent of the golf courses on the east end of Long Island have accepted a challenge from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its government and private partners to protect the health of the Peconic Estuary and other local waters by reducing their use of fertilizers. This is the first time that a group of golf courses in one geographic area of the country have voluntarily agreed to better manage their fertilizer use to limit the amount of nitrogen that enters ground water, ultimately winding up in rivers, streams and the estuary. Thirty of the thirty-four East End public and private golf courses are participating in the program.

In May 2003, EPA teamed up with the United States Golf Association (USGA), Cornell University, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the Suffolk County Health Department, the Peconic Estuary Program's Citizen's Advisory Committee and the East End Golf Course Superintendents to create the East End Nitrogen Management Challenge for Golf Courses.

"This is the first time that a large segment of the golf industry in one area has voluntarily come together to reduce fertilizer use and the nitrogen it produces to protect the future of our estuaries," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. "The protection and restoration of coastal waters requires everyone to do his or her part, and the golf courses of eastern Long Island are certainly setting a laudable example."

Through the Challenge, the USGA and Cornell are providing technical assistance to participating public and private golf courses, enabling each course to better manage its fertilizer use. The goal is for each golf course to limit its contribution of nitrogen to ground water to 2 mg/l total nitrogen -- less than half the level resulting from typical residential development. The golf courses have agreed to develop comprehensive nitrogen management plans that will be evaluated annually. Sprinklers and rain cause excess nitrogen from fertilizers to enter ground water and run off into rivers, lakes, streams and the ocean. Nitrogen in the water can cause too much algae to grow, which in turn uses up the oxygen needed by fish to survive.

"The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is pleased to have played a role in the development and implementation of the Peconic Estuary Nitrogen Management Challenge," said NYSDEC Commissioner Erin Crotty. "This voluntary program for public and private golf courses demonstrates the ability of many different partners to get together to develop a sustainable initiative to reduce nitrogen loading to the Peconic Estuary and protect the valuable resources of the state."

Industry cooperation has been commendable. To date, the courses that have agreed to participate are: Exit EPA disclaimer

Atlantic Golf Club
Bridgehampton Club
Calverton Links
Cedars Golf Club
East Hampton Golf Club
Fox Hill Golf Club
Friar's Head
Gardiners Bay Country Club
Goat Hill at Shelter Island Country Club
Great Rock Golf Club
Hampton Hills Golf Club
Indian Island Golf Course
Islands End Golf Club
Laurel Links Country Club
Long Island National Club
Maidstone Club
Montauk Downs
National Golf Links of America
North Fork Country Club
Noyac Golf Club
Old Vine Country Club
Pine Hills Country Club
Poxabogue Golf Course
Quogue Field Club
Rock Hill Golf Club
Sag Harbor Golf Club
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
South Fork Country Club
The Bridge
Westhampton Country Club

Here's what other Challenge partners have to say about this precedent-setting program:

"As the grandson of a local bayman, I grew up swimming, fishing and clamming in the surrounding waters and I have personally witnessed the decline in water quality of our bays. Becoming involved with the Peconic Estuary Program gave me the opportunity to represent golf course superintendents in the effort to clean up and protect the surrounding marine environment. It is my hope that through this cooperative agreement, the sophisticated nitrogen management strategies developed by superintendents will be recognized and adopted for use in other areas. It doesn't take a lot of nitrogen to grow good grass."
Mike Rewinski, Superintendent for Westhampton Country Club

"Over the past 20 years, the USGA has dedicated a significant amount of time and resources focusing on environmental research and outreach. Through programs such as the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses and Wildlife Links, and continued funding of environmental turfgrass research, the USGA promotes ecologically sound land management and the conservation and protection of natural resources both on and around golf courses. As part of the Peconic Estuary team, we are pleased to apply this body of knowledge toward assisting the East End golf courses in meeting the Nitrogen Management Challenge. This program is a winner for all entities involved, the environment, and for the game of golf.
Dr. James H. Baird, Agronomist, Northeast Region, USGA Green Section

"This measure demonstrates another major industry that is doing its part to reduce nitrogen loading; that's good for water quality and habitat. It will help in the continued restoration of our local harbors and bays."
Bob Deluca, President of Group for the South Fork
, whose organization had staff involved in negotiations on the agreement.

"The Superintendents were earnest in their desire to help improve in ways to restore the bays and were a pleasure to work with. We look forward to other golf industry-related measures that we can work on together."
Kevin McDonald, Chair of the Peconic Estuary Program's Citizen's Advisory Committee

"The County is pleased to support and participate in this cooperative effort to reduce the environmental impacts to the estuary and neighboring waters associated with maintaining golf courses. This initiative builds upon the County's efforts to work with members of the environmental and farming communities to reduce the use of nitrogen and pesticide on farmlands. Congratulations to each of the members of the Peconic Estuary Technical and Citizen's Advisory Committees, representatives of the golf industry and the region's golf course superintendents on reaching this farsighted agreement to protect the wetlands, waters, and wildlife on Long Island's east end."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy

"The Turfgrass Science Program at Cornell University is pleased to be part of the efforts of USEPA Region 2, NYSDEC, Suffolk County, US Golf Association- Greens Section, Peconic Estuary Program and golf courses on eastern Long Island to develop the Nitrogen Management Challenge for Golf Courses in the Peconic Estuary. This collaboration of government, university, and golf course industry representatives is paramount to the success of protecting and enhancing the environment on eastern Long Island and will serve as a model for environmental protection for many others."
Dr. Marty Petrovic, Professor of Turfgrass Science, Dept. of Horticulture, Cornell University