Suffolk Legislature Approves Funds for Carmans River Fish Ladder

County Executive Bellone and Legislator Browning Partner to Restore Habitat

(Hauppauge, NY) – On March 19, the Suffolk County Legislature approved funding to install a fish ladder on the Carmans River at Lower Yaphank Lake to facilitate the migration of fish across Lower Lake Dam. Utilizing $252,000 in New York State Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act grant funds, the project will promote safe and effective migration of diadromous fish across the stream barrier at Lower Lake Dam to access historic spawning habitat on the Carmans River. The River contains State-designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat.

“The Carmans River is one of only four State-designated wild, scenic and recreational rivers within New York. Restoring habitat for the Brook trout, American Eel, Alewife and Blueback Herring that spawn in these waters in essential,” said County Executive Steven Bellone, who championed the legislation. “I applaud the Legislature for approving funding for this project, which will not only improve the ecosystem and fisheries of the Carmans River, but enhance flood mitigation for the surrounding community.”

“The Upper and Lower Lake Dams at the Carmans River should no longer remain as barriers to current fish passage, and installation of this fish ladder at Lower Lake will build upon our ongoing efforts to allow fish to safely migrate upstream,” stated Legislator Kate Browning. “In conjunction with the Town of Brookhaven’s project at Upper Lake and state funding to complete the county’s work, Alewife, American Eel and Brook Trout will be able to remain healthy and productive in the river for generations to come.”

Alewife and American Eel have been identified as priority species due to their historic presence but limited distribution within the South Shore Estuary Reserve, including the Carmans River. Habitat for trout and other freshwater species has also been segmented by dam structures. As a result, restoring fish passage on the Carmans River is a high priority, consistent with the South Shore Estuary Reserve Comprehensive Management Plan’s specific recommendation “to restore diadromous fish populations in tributaries where the necessary habitat conditions exist or can be created.”

In 2009, the New York State Department of Transportation installed a fish ladder on the Carmans River, downstream from Lower Lake, at Hard Lake Dam in Southaven County Park. This was Long Island’s first permanent fish ladder and has been successful in allowing fish migration upstream.

Lower Yaphank Lake Dam is the next remaining barrier up the River. The dam at Upper Yaphank Lake is also a barrier for fish migration, and the Town of Brookhaven is currently working on a project to install a fish ladder at that location to allow fish passage beyond Upper Lake into the upper reaches of the Carmans River. Thus, the County’s project on Lower Lake is imperative.

Installation of the fish ladder is expected to be completed by spring 2014.