Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions


Source: North Shore Sun

Carmans River group votes in favor of dredging Yaphank lakes


Posted: December 7, 2010
Originally Published: December 6, 2010

Bottom dredging and the use of a controversial chemical to deal with the unruly plant situation at two lakes located in Yaphank were recommendations presented by a county-commissioned study group last week to the Brookhaven Town Board.

The nearly three-year effort of the Carmans River Protection Working Group — made up of consultants, local civic leaders, elected officials and environmentalists — has sought solutions to restore both Upper and Lower Lakes in Yaphank. Both are part of the Carmans River system.

Weeds have overtaken the lakes and many residents have complained that recreational use of the waterways are nearly impossible.

The 20-member study group — led by Melville-based environmental planning firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis — voted last month, 17 to 1 (with two members abstaining), in favor of dredging Lower Lake, as well as a combination plan for Upper Lake involving dredging and the application of Sonar, which is the herbicide fluridone, which inhibits the production of chlorophyll.

Upper Lake, also known as Willow Lake, is dominated by a plant called fanwort. Consultants said that lake is a good candidate for Sonar because it’s designed to only target fanwort and wouldn’t have an effect on native plants.

During the public comment portion of the Brookhaven Town Board meeting on Nov. 23, Kevin McAllister, Peconic Baykeeper, told council members he opposed the plan because it “needs to be more thoroughly vetted” through the completion of a state environmental review.

He added that the plan doesn’t address many environmental concerns, including the downstream effect Sonar would have on other plants and trees, as well as the potential effect on endangered species, such as the bald eagle and the osprey.

MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic, agreed and asked the Town Board to wait for additional scientific information before signing off on the plan.

“The health of this river can’t be turned back once you kill it,” she said.

Adrienne Esposito, the study group’s chairwoman and the executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, told the Town Board that while there’s no “golden nugget” to fixing the weed problem, she’s in favor of the plan because it would be a “jump start” toward the goal of restoring the water’s health.

“The lakes are dying and, literally, being choked out of existence,” she said.

Consultants for the study group have suggested Sonar because the biggest issue with removing fanwort is that regrowth occurs easily. If the plant was pulled out and a small broken-off section went back into the water, that section could reroot itself and grown again.

On the other hand, Lower Lake, also know as Lilly Lake, is plagued by watermilfoil, which is less affected by Sonar treatments, consultants said. Only dredging was recommended to handle the plant.

At the conclusion of the public comment portion of the Town Board meeting, Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko asked Ms. Esposito to present the group’s recommendations to the town’s recently formed Carmans River Study Group, which has a Jan. 20 deadline to come up with a Carmans River Watershed Comprehensive Plan designed to aid in wisely crafting land development plans from Middle Island to Yaphank.

The county is in the process of securing funding to restore the river and will work with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to determine when work can begin, which could be as early as next fall, officials said.