With the failure of the dam at West Brook, we all have a golden opportunity to engage in some essential habitat restoration, The fact that this artificial pond (or impoundment) created in the 1880s is now gone, and now West Brook is one of the few brooks, streams or creeks or rivers that now flow unimpeded to the bay should be a cause for celebration.
As we saw with The Breach, nature can come alive again if it is allowed to flow.
The fact that it happened at The Bayard Cutting Arboretum, or all places, means that this effort to restore rare native habitat could be well organized, There is no disputing that even with nature’s resiliency, this return of the natives will require some regular stewardship, an investment in resources.
Seatuck, a brother in this fight to heal our creeks through their River Revival Project and a long time advocate for restoring Long Island’s historic fish runs by reconnecting our creeks and rivers to the bays. Over centuries, the dams, culverts and spillways had come to block alewife, river herring, and eels from spawning, with dire consequences to the ocean fish and birds that feed off them,
Their post on West Brook is one we stand behind as an organization 100%. It makes a thorough and strong case for letting West Brook flow free once more.
Our letter, which is below, was circulated among various other environmental organizations, as was Seatuck’s in order that Mr, Gorman, below, understood the degree of support there is already for letting nature take its course. If we do the smart thing and leave it alone, with some gentle tending and stewardship, who knows how beautiful the results could be?
July 2, 2019
George Gorman, Regional Director
NYSOPR-Long Island Region
625 Belmont Ave.
West Babylon, NY 11704.
Delivered VIA Email Only
Re: West Brook Pond Dam Failure
For centuries, across Long Island, we have created artificial impoundments to power mills and harvest ice. Today, even though we no longer utilize these impoundments for such reasons, it would be hard to find a brook that is not somewhere dammed and maintained, presumably out of a sense of nostalgia.
With the collapse of old, rotten weir boards at West Brook near Bayard Cutting Arboretum, we have been given a gift by nature which we would be wise to accept. Long Island’s “ponds” are largely dying, filling with silt, polluted, covered with algae, and choked with invasive plants and animals. The science is clear; the solution to this issue is to allow our brooks to finally run free:
- Impoundments impede the successful migration and spawning of, and degrade habitat for, alewife, eel, and river herring. These anadromous and catadromous fish are vital food supplies for fish, birds and marine mammals.
- Impoundments create thermal stratification and degrade within-impoundment and downstream water quality. The warmest water, at the top of the pond, is what flows downstream;
- Impoundments provide little habitat value for native reptiles and amphibians, particularly rare species that depend on fishless ephemeral pools to breed, and upland vegetation to spend the summer months (e.g., marbled salamanders and spadefoot toads);
- Impoundments hold back sediment, thereby causing “eutrophication” (i.e., excessive nutrients and the reduction in dissolved oxygen levels) and turbidity (suspended sediments) over time. Attempts at restoring the impoundment through excavation of accumulated sediments have been unsuccessful in other Long Island localities and will still leave us with an impoundment that will once again fill in with sediment;
- Impoundments provide little habitat for birds, particularly songbirds of the family passaridae (e.g., warblers). A restored creek and adjacent wetlands comprising diverse wetland and upland habitats will help preserve our native species. Migratory waterfowl that may use the impoundment in its current form can easily move a short distance to other impoundments in the area; and
- Impoundments also impair downstream structure and function by causing downstream incising (i.e., channelization and deepening). This greatly reduces the ecological health of the system.
We at Save the Great South Bay, along with the undersigned organizations and individuals, urge the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Department to avoid unnecessary and costly repairs to the impoundment for the foregoing reasons, and because “pond restoration” is an unsustainable practice. Please do not waste taxpayer dollars to continue the ongoing degradation of our riverine ecosystems.
Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.
Frank Piccininni, Esq., M.S.,
Save the Great South Bay
On Behalf of:
CC (VIA EMAIL):
Theresa Santoro, Suffolk County Regional Representative,
Office of New York State Governor
The Honorable Monica R. Martinez, New York State Senate
The Honorable Todd Kaminsky, New York State Senate,
Chair, Senate Environmental Conservation Committee
The Honorable Steve Englebright, New York State Assembly,
Chair, Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee
The Honorable Andrew R. Garbarino, New York State Assembly
Brian X. Foley, Deputy Regional Director, NYSOPR, Long Island Region
Annie McIntyre, Regional Environmental Manager, NYSOPR, Long Island Region
Carrie Meek-Gallagher, Regional Director, NYSDEC, Region 1
Kevin Jennings, Regional Habitat Manager, NYSDEC, Region 1
Michele Gibbons, Regional Wildlife Manager, NYSDEC, Region 1
Heidi O’Riordan, Regional Fisheries Manager, NYSDEC, Region 1
Rob Marsh, Natural Resources Manager, NYSDEC, Region 1
Nelson W. Sterner, Executive Director, Bayard Cutting Arboretum