Long Island Sound

2015 Long Island Fish Passage Workshop

By Victoria O’Neill, Amy Mandelbaum, Julie Nace, and Mark Tedesco

Workshop attendees inspect a newly installed fishway at Argyle Lake in Babylon, NY.

Workshop attendees inspect a newly installed fishway at Argyle Lake in Babylon, NY.

For hundreds of years, humans have manipulated New York’s waterways for their own interests and needs. The establishment of dams, weirs, and culverts have allowed humans to harness water power for mills, create ponds for recreation, and establish essential infrastructure such as roadways. While these changes have benefited people, they have had a negative impact on wildlife, in particular fish like river herring and American eel. These ocean-going fish require access to rivers to complete their life cycles, such as spawning and juvenile development. Impediments on rivers have severely impacted river herring and American eel populations in New York State.

Luckily, there are solutions to moving fish up, over, and through these impassable structures. Fishways, which consist of ladders, lifts, bypasses, and ramps, can be designed and installed at barriers like dams, weirs, and culverts to enable fish to move from one section of river to another. To date, a handful of fishways have been installed throughout New York and the region, but there are still many rivers and creeks containing barriers. Recognizing this need, several partners, including the Long Island Sound Study, Peconic Estuary Program, and Seatuck Environmental Association, decided to organize a workshop to educate those interested in fish passage.

Fishway installed at the 182nd St Dam on the Bronx River in Bronx, NY.

Fishway installed at the 182nd St Dam on the Bronx River in Bronx, NY.

Last month, 45 engineers, biologists, hydrologists, environmental scientists and other practitioners from New York and New England took part in the Fish Passage Workshop at Hofstra University. The workshop was run by Brett Towler and Bryan Sojkowski from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast office. During Day 1 of the workshop, attendees learned about the design, operation, andoversight of fish passage projects. During Day 2 of the workshop, attendees visited a newly installed fishway at Argyle Lake and a future fish passage site at Southards Pond in Babylon, NY.

Workshop attendees visit a future fish passage site at Southards Pond in Babylon, NY.

Workshop attendees visit a future fish passage site at Southards Pond in Babylon, NY.

Follow-up surveys will be conducted to see if the workshop attendees used the knowledge that they gained from the workshop to identify fish passage projects in their communities and/or to see if they are in the process of designing, installing, and overseeing fishways on their local creeks and rivers.

About the Authors: 

Victoria O’Neill is the New York Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the Long Island Sound Study. She works for the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission and is housed in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Habitat Protection in East Setauket, NY. 

Amy Mandelbaum is the New York Outreach Coordinator for the Long Island Sound Study. She works for New York Sea Grant in Stony Brook, NY.  

Julie Nace is the New York State Coordinator for the Peconic Estuary Program. She specializes in the implementation of habitat restoration projects, non-point source water pollution control, and education and outreach. 

Mark Tedesco is director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Office. The office coordinates the Long Island Sound Study. Mr. Tedesco is responsible for supporting implementation of a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound in cooperation with federal, state, and local government, private organizations, and the public.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Invasive Species Awareness Week Kicks Off This Week: Get Involved With Long Island Sound Stewardship Days

By Victoria O’Neill and Mark A. Tedesco

Volunteers help remove invasive plants from a Long Island Sound Stewardship Area as part of a volunteer Stewardship Day in 2012. Photo credit: Larissa Graham.

Volunteers help remove invasive plants from a Long Island Sound Stewardship Area as part of a volunteer Stewardship Day in 2012. Photo credit: Larissa Graham.

Look out fellow New Yorkers! We’re under invasion! Invasive species are everywhere.

An invasive species is an organism that is not native to an ecosystem and can have detrimental effects on the environment, the economy, and even human health. Invasive species can be plant or animal, can come in all shapes and sizes, and can be found on land, sea, or air. Human activity is the primary reason for the spread of invasive species. People can accidentally or intentionally spread species through the use of ornamental plants, the pet trade, ballast water in ships, and through cargo.

Luckily, there is a group solely focused on the prevention, eradication, and management of invasive species. The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse has focused on all things related to invasive species since 2008. To learn more about the Clearinghouse, click here: http://www.nyis.info/?action=identification

Stop the Invasion - Protect New York From Invasive SpeciesThis year, New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse partners are hosting the first annual Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) during July 6-12, 2014. ISAW’s mission is to promote knowledge of invasive species to help stop their spread by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities across the state and encouraging them to take action. Several free events are taking place during the week throughout the state.

Recognizing the threat that invasive species have on the quality of the coastal habitats of Long Island Sound, the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) and its partners, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation and Town of Brookhaven, have stepped up to the challenge and will host three Stewardship Days focused on invasive plant species removal during ISAW. Stewardship Days are volunteer opportunities at LISS Stewardship Sites, sites designated as holding ecological and recreational importance to the LIS estuary. LISS Stewardship Day events during ISAW will take place on July 10 at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook, NY, and July 11 and July 12 at Caumsett State Park in Huntington, NY. Our target species will be Perennial Pepperweed at West Meadow Beach and Swallowwort at Caumsett State Park. Aside from invasive species removal events, upcoming Stewardship Day events this year will include beach clean-ups, native planting, and native seed collection events.

Calling all New Yorkers, near and far, to action against these invaders! Grab your gardening gloves and favorite trowel and join us at one of our ISAW events! To find out more about the LISS Stewardship Day events during ISAW and to register for the events, visit the LISS website:  http://longislandsoundstudy.net/2014/06/volunteer-stewardship-days-this-july/

To find out more about other ISAW and ISAW events in other areas, visit: http://www.nyis.info/blog/

About the Authors: Victoria O’Neill is the New York Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the Long Island Sound Study. She works for the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission and is housed in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Habitat Protection in East Setauket, NY.

Mark Tedesco is director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Office. The office coordinates the Long Island Sound Study, administered by the EPA as part of the National Estuary Program under the Clean Water Act. Mr. Tedesco is responsible for supporting implementation of a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound, approved in 1994 by the Governors of New York and Connecticut and the EPA Administrator, in cooperation with federal, state, and local government, private organizations, and the public.  

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Participate in the 2014 Long Island Sound Volunteer Alewife Survey

By Victoria O’Neil and Mark A. Tedesco

The alewife is an important source of food for many valued fish and birds.

The alewife is an important source of food for many valued fish and birds.

The winter of 2014 has been a cold and snowy season, but spring is almost upon us. Soon the temperatures will begin to rise, and the northeastern United States will awaken: the snow will melt away, the ground will begin to thaw, and the early spring blooming plants such as Forsythia and Amelanchier will emerge from hibernation to produce their showy blooms. As much a signpost of spring is the annual migration of the alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) to local rivers and creeks.

The alewife is a member of the herring family whose species range from the Canadian Maritimes to the Carolinas. Alewives, also known as river herring, are anadromous fish that, like salmon, spend the majority of their lives out at sea and only enter freshwater systems to spawn. A relatively diminutive fish (adults average 12 inches in length), these silvery, iridescent creatures are built for speed, with a sleek and slender frame allowing them to move quickly through the water.

Over the next few weeks, from mid-March through May, thousands of these tiny fish will begin their journey from the open ocean to our Long Island Sound estuaries, rivers, and creeks. Their journey from ocean to estuary to freshwater river will take several weeks and they will cover hundreds of miles. Along the way, they will serve as an important high energy food source for tuna, whales, cod, dolphins, harbor seals, ospreys, eagles, river otters, herons, raccoons, and egrets. Upon reaching the same rivers and creeks from which they hatched, the alewife adults will spawn millions of golden-green eggs. While the adults leave the rivers soon after spawning to return to the ocean, the eggs will hatch into juveniles that will stay and grow in the freshwater systems throughout the spring and summer. As the temperatures begin to cool in the early fall, the young alewives too will leave and migrate to the open ocean. In three to five years, this cohort will mature and return to their natal river to spawn.

Over the last hundred years, alewife populations have decreased throughout their range, including New York. Spawning runs in Long Island Sound tributaries have been lost or severely diminished due to overfishing, habitat degradation, poor water quality, and, most importantly, the installation of impassable structures, such as dams, weirs, and culverts, that prevent fish from reaching their spawning grounds.

Citizen scientists can collect valuable data on the migration of the alewife to Long Island Sound rivers and creeks to spawn.

Citizen scientists can collect valuable data on the migration of the alewife to Long Island Sound rivers and creeks to spawn.

Alewife runs were probably once a common phenomenon along the north shore of Long Island. Without a comprehensive survey in recent decades the current extent of the spawning run on Long Island is uncertain. The Long Island Sound Volunteer Alewife Survey aims to fill this knowledge gap by providing biologists, managers, and researchers with basic information on the alewife runs. The survey helps determine if and where a run exists, the timing and length of the run, and how many fish are making the run.

The Volunteer Alewife Survey effort on Long Island began in 2006 through the Environmental Defense Fund and the South Shore Estuary Reserve. The effort was initiated to support a major multi-stakeholder effort to restore diadromous fish (i.e., fish that spend their lives in fresh and saltwater) to Long Island’s south shore. Today, the effort is headed up by Seatuck Environmental Association and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and monitoring has expanded to sites in the Peconic estuary and Long Island Sound. Data collected by citizen scientists in this program has assisted with the installation of fish passage projects around the island.

To become an alewife citizen scientist, volunteers with no prior alewife monitoring experience, attend a one-hour training session to learn about alewife life cycle, ecological importance, identification, and survey protocol. At the session, volunteers can choose or be assigned to a creek to monitor near their home. These citizen scientists are then encouraged to make observations from set vantage points downstream of the first significant impediment to migration along the waterbody. From mid-March through late-May, volunteers will visit their designated waterbody at least once a week for a minimum of 15 minutes at a time. During their visit, they will record the date, weather conditions, water temperature, if fish are present or not, an estimate of how many fish are present, duration of their visit, and any notable evidence of alewives (i.e., scales or carcasses left on the creek bank by a predator). Citizen scientists are encouraged to bring a camera or phone with them to take photos and videos of any alewife they may see. All of this information is then uploaded to an online database that is later accessed by biologists and researchers.  For more information visit: http://seatuck.org/index.php/feature-1/174-2014-alewife-survey

About the Authors: Victoria O’Neil is the New York Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the Long Island Sound Study. She works for the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission and is housed in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Habitat Protection in East Setauket, NY.

Mark Tedesco is director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Office. The office coordinates the Long Island Sound Study, administered by the EPA as part of the National Estuary Program under the Clean Water Act. Mr. Tedesco is responsible for supporting implementation of a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound, approved in 1994 by the Governors of New York and Connecticut and the EPA Administrator, in cooperation with federal, state, and local government, private organizations, and the public. Mr. Tedesco has worked for the EPA for 25 years. He received his M.S. in marine environmental science in 1986 and a B.S in biology in 1982 from Stony Brook University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Super Storm Sandy Restores Habitat in Sunken Meadow Park

By Mark Tedesco

The storm surge associated with Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on coastal communities, altering both human and natural structures.  However, coastal ecosystems have evolved with, and have been shaped by, the forces of coastal storms over the centuries. Periodic storms can even have beneficial effects on certain aspects of the natural ecosystem.  One such example is the restoration of intertidal flow and habitat in Sunken Meadow Creek at Sunken Meadow State Park, New York.

The storm surge associated with Hurricane Sandy destroyed a man-made berm across Sunken Meadow Creek that was constructed as part of the development of Sunken Meadow State Park in the early 1950s.  The berm created a road and walkway to nearby woodland for park visitors, but the undersized culverts that were installed restricted the natural tidal flow to the creek from Long Island Sound.  As a result, saltwater fish were prevented from swimming and spawning upstream, and an invasive form of the common reed, Phragmites, proliferated along the now freshwater creek.  Using EPA funding provided through the Long Island Sound Study, New York State Parks was planning to remove the berm to restore tidal flushing to the creek.

But on October 29-30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy decided that Mother Nature knows best, impatiently breaching and eroding away portions of the berm. As a result, Sunken Meadow Creek has returned to its natural state, an estuary where fresh and salt water mix.  The fresh water common reed, Phragmites, will most likely die back and be replaced by saltmarsh grasses.  Saltwater species cut off from the creek, including alewife, striped bass, juvenile bluefish, winter flounder, weakfish, silverside, killifish, American eel and various shellfish, waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds will all benefit.  Although intertidal exchange has been restored by the force of Sandy, planning is now underway to control bank erosion and restore access to the other side of the creek for park visitors.

About the author: Mark Tedesco is director of EPA’s Long Island Sound Office.  The office coordinates the Long Island Sound Study, administered by EPA as part of the National Estuary Program under the Clean Water Act.  Mr. Tedesco has worked for EPA for 25 years.  He received his M.S. in marine environmental science in 1986 and a B.S in biology in 1982 from Stony Brook University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Sea Farming Shellfish and Seaweed in Long Island Sound

Local students, through a program with Rocking the Boat a nonprofit community development organization, helping to set up the shellfish and seaweed raft off of Hunts Point in the Bronx.

By Mark Tedesco

The theory behind the martial art of Jiu Jitsu is to use an attacker’s force against him or herself.   What if the same theory can be applied to pollutants that degrade coastal water quality?  An innovative project just offshore of where the Bronx River empties into western Long Island Sound is doing just that.

Shellfish and seaweed suspension raft off the Bronx River

There on a raft anchored about 20 meters offshore, not far from the Hunts Point market, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Connecticut, and Purchase College are studying a pilot sea farm of shellfish and seaweed.  Students from the South Bronx community are maintaining the sea farm through involvement of Rocking the Boat, a nonprofit community development organization.  The seaweed and shellfish (ribbed mussels) grow by absorbing and filtering nutrients from the water.  When harvested, the nutrients they contain are taken out of the water.  As a result, sea farming of shellfish and seaweed could be a powerful tool in cleaning up nutrient-enriched waters.

While nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are essential for the growth of plants and animals, in excess they can overwhelm coastal waters, resulting in poor visibility, low oxygen levels, and loss of healthy wetlands and sea grasses. Through the Long Island Sound Study, EPA and the states of New York and Connecticut are taking action to improve the water quality of Long Island Sound by reducing the amount of nitrogen entering Long Island Sound by 60 percent, mainly by upgrading wastewater treatment plants and controlling fertilizer-laden stormwater runoff. Enhancing sea farming of shellfish and seaweeds in Long Island Sound can complement nutrient control strategies as part of a comprehensive clean water strategy.  The pilot study is evaluating a range of potential markets for the harvest, from seafood for human consumption to agricultural feeds, from biofuels to pharmaceutical products.

The project has caught the interest of the CNN and the New York Times.  If successful, the expansion of sea farming of shellfish and seaweed can mean more jobs, cleaner water, and local quality products.

About the author: Mark Tedesco is director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Office.  The office coordinates the Long Island Sound Study, administered by EPA as part of the National Estuary Program under the Clean Water Act. Mr. Tedesco is responsible for supporting implementation of a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound, approved in 1994 by the by the Governors of New York and Connecticut and the EPA Administrator,  in cooperation with federal, state, and local government, private organizations, and the public.  Mr. Tedesco has worked for EPA for 25 years.  He received his M.S. in marine environmental science in 1986 and a B.S in biology in 1982 from Stony Brook University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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