Federal and Local Regulations

Although there are some federal, state, and local laws and regulations in place that directly or indirectly protect eelgrass, unfortunately the public is often unaware that these regulations exist, so therefore they do not oblige by them. Most of the regulations that exist only indirectly help make conditions better for seagrasses, including improvements in water quality and decreases in shoreline hardening. The following tables list state and local regulations that impact seagrasses in New York State waters as well as the Towns of Southold, Shelter Island, Southampton, East Hampton, and Riverhead. If your town is not listed or if you want to learn more about your town or state regulations, most municipalities have their town code available for viewing on the web. Be aware of what your town is doing to help protect the environment!


Table I. State Management Impacting Eelgrass
Responsible Entity Chapter in Code Section/Article Direct/
NYS DEC 6NYC RR Part 661-Tidal Wetlands Land Use Regulations(Statutory authority: Environmental Conservation Law, §§ 1-0101, 3-0301, 25-0302) 661.4 (hh)-Tidal Wetlands classifications
Littoral zone included in tidal wetland definition (up to 6ft depth @mlw)
661.4(ee)- Regulated Activity
Any form of dredging or dumping of aggregates; The erection of any structures whether or not changing the ebb and flow of the tide; Any other activity which may substantially impair or alter the natural condition of the tidal wetland area
661.5 Uses
***No permit necessary for depositing or removing the natural products of a tidal wetland (or adjacent area) in the process of recreational or commercial fishing, shellfishing, aquaculture, hunting or trapping, including the erection and maintenance of temporary hides or blinds.
6 NYCRR Part 46-Public Use of State-Owned Tidal Wetlands 46.7 Prohibited Activities
Removal of naturally occurring or introduced flora, whether living or dead, except for specifically permitted research or educational activities
Disposal of any solid, liquid or toxic waste material.
6 NYCRR Part 49- Shellfish Management-Gear restrictions Soft clams
No mechanical means except churning by propeller allowed below low tide
Protection of
Article 15 of the ECL. Part 608
Requires a permit before construction, reconstruction or expansion of a dock, wharf, groin, mooring or any other structure, in or above waters in state-owned underwater lands.


Table II. Local Management Impacting Eelgrass

Responsible Entity

Chapter in Code





Town of Southold

219 -Shellfish and other Marine Resources

219-20: Vegetation removal prohibited


  • No wetland vegetation of any kind can be removed or soil placed thereon during shellfishing activities

219-16: Culling shellfish and restoration of underwater lands


  • Bottom must be returned to previous state upon taking of shellfish

275 (formally 97) -Wetlands and Shoreline

275-2: Definitions


  • Basically same as DEC wetlands regs. , but up to 5ft depth @mlw; 100 ft from wetland boundary

275-11: Construction and Operation standards


  • Dredging in or close to seagrass is prohibited
  • Whether or not seagrasses (including eelgrass and widgeon grass) will be damaged or prevented from growth is considered before permitting dock placement


  • Use of lumber treated with CCA, creosote, penta products or homemade wood preservatives prohibited
  • No new bulkheads in creeks and bays unless low-sill
  • No new jetties or groins unless results in a total net decrease in the subject area

Mooring and Anchoring Draft Chapter 34 (new chapter) Dec 11,2006

34-15: Moorings in Designated Mooring Areas created by the Town

34-14 (A,C): Mooring Assignments: General rules for Town waters


  • In designating mooring areas, the Town Board shall ensure town mooring areas avoid eelgrass beds.
  • Boatyard, Marina, Yacht club, and riparian moorings only allowed based on considerations including locations of seagrass meadows.



Town of Southampton

Shellfish Permits and Regulation Article II 
(not in Town Code)

Section 8E. Soft Clams


  • "Churning over or through submerged eelgrass beds is strictly prohibited” Regulated by bay constables

278 - Shellfish

278-8 ,9: Escallops and Hard Clams


  • Scallops and crabs may be harvested with a dredge only if same as DEC requirements for scallops
  • No plant life (or hard clams) may be removed by mechanical means

330 - Zoning


330-40: Tidal Wetland Regulations


  • Bulkheading prohibited unless in Waterfront Business District or to protect the natural environment from erosion, silting etc.

111-Beaches, Parks and Waterways

111-28: Removal of Beach Grass


  • “No person shall remove, impair, damage or destroy any beach grasses or wetlands vegetation of any kind nor place spoil thereon in any other area of the Town of Southampton without prior written approval by the Director of Natural Resources of the Town of Southampton and the Board of Trustees.”


325-3: Definitions


  • Tidal wetland definition includes “All lands lying in the area inundated by tidal action and/or peak lunar tides”,   “all estuaries”, “littoral zones”, though no depth limit specified
  • Same regulated activities as DEC except 200ft from wetland boundary


Town of Riverhead


47-Bays and Creeks

47-21: Docks, basins and ramps


  • The potential for destruction of eelgrass  or shellfish beds is considered by the Conservation Advisory Counsel before issuing a dock permit


  • No commercial copper quat (ACQ), pentachlorophenol, or creosote treated wood may be used for shoreline structures. CCA can only be used for pilings.

Article II- Shellfish


  • Same as Southampton Town regs

107-Tidal and Freshwater Wetlands

107-3,4 –Definitions and Regulations


  • Littoral zone (up to 6ft at mlw) included in tidal wetlands definition.
  • Same wetland regs. as DEC except 150ft from wetland boundary.


Town of Shelter Island


General guidelines to activities within regulated area.


  • “The depositing or removal of the natural products of wetlands during recreational or commercial fishing, shellfishing or aquaculture is allowed so long as there is no undue disturbance of the wetlands.”


  • No new bulkheads will be allowed unless property is in imminent peril of destruction from erosion and that other measures are not viable.

129-8: Definitions


  • Wetlands def. includes “all lands generally covered or intermittently covered with, or which border on, tidal waters, or lands lying beneath tidal water such as…littoral zones”, though no depth mentioned.
  • Same regulated activities as DEC; 100ft from wetland boundary


108-5: Regulations


  • No churning for soft clams
  • Same scallop, hard clam regs. as DEC



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