Below is an update from our colleagues at Suffolk County regarding the restoration work happening in the wetlands south of the West Sayville Golf Course.

The West Sayville wetland restoration project is part of our National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Sandy Resiliency Wetland Restoration Grant. The $1,310,000 NFWF grant with a County match of $688,849 was awarded for Coastal Resiliency via Integrated Salt Marsh Management. The goals of the project include coastal resiliency and wetland restoration, with natural mosquito control through habitat adaption and killifish access as secondary goals. Although the NFWF grant funding has expired, we continued on with the project to meet our wetland restoration goals.

The West Sayville marsh during a recent full moon flood tide event.

The same area just days after the flood tide.

With Help from The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was retained under the NFWF grant to help assemble a team of coastal wetland experts who reviewed the project plans for West Sayville, Gardiners Park and Timber Point and gave guidance based on wetland restoration projects undertaken in their jurisdictions. A key component of the TNC work was the Regional Technical Workgroup (RTW) Report of saltmarsh restoration practitioners across the Sandy-impacted region which provides a continued forum for the exchange of ideas, experiences and best practices regarding saltmarsh restoration. TNC submitted the final report of recommendation to the County in the spring of 2020. Recommendations from the report were used to help guide the NFWF projects in Suffolk County. The recently completed Smith Point FEMA/HMGP grant wetland restoration project also used these same marsh restoration recommendations.

 Key NFWF project features and goals for West Sayville and our other marsh restoration sites:
  • Creating a single watershed; using a single channel feature to return natural tidal exchange to the marsh. The grid ditch pattern of most marshes limits proper tidal exchange. Creating watersheds within the marsh increases the tidal exchange between tide events and helps with nutrient cycling to the marsh. Selective filling of ditches is used to return the proper exchange of tides and sediment to the watershed. The restored watershed hydrology also assists with marsh accretion and reducing the impacts of sea-level-rise to the wetland.
  • Draining of ponded water within pannes that leads to drowning of the marsh and results in marsh die-back. This includes returning natural tidal cycles to the marsh, where the pannes are now connected by shallow runnel ditches. Runnels to the pannes assists in vegetation regrowth, as the flooded barren pannes are open to daily tidal exchange.
  • Using runnels and micro-pools to target to mosquito larval hotspots results in reduced mosquito habitat and natural mosquito larval control through predacious killifish. Reducing mosquitoes on the marsh assists Vector Control’s efforts by limiting the need for pesticide applications to the wetland. The mosquito reduction aids with public health protection from mosquito-borne diseases and increases quality of life for neighboring residents and visitors to the County Park.
  • Restoring the marsh for flora and fauna. We use recommendations from groups including the Saltmarsh Sparrow Initiative, Audubon, TNC and others to assist in restoring features for species of concern in Suffolk County.

Additional Wetland Restoration Projects In the Works/Completed

Suffolk County has completed the following other wetland restoration projects:
  • Smith Point Park Marina 2022-2023 (north side of bridge)
  • Timber Point County Park/NYSDEC Tidal Wetland  2021-2022 (completed)
  • Gardiner County Park – 2020-2021 (completed)
NYSDEC recently completed the Fireplace Neck State Tidal Wetland project (2022-23) using similar methods.
We have also worked previously with USFWS cooperative projects at Wertheim and Seatuck NWR.
Suffolk County has been working with Post Morrow Foundation on the restoration of a dredge spoil filled wetland on the Beaverdam Creek in Brookhaven Hamlet. We hope to have the consultant ready to submit plans and permits for work this winter 2023-24.

As prepared by Tom Iwanejko, Superintendent – Division of Vector Control, Suffolk County Dept of Public Works

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