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.

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