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For Release: Monday, October 31, 2022

DEC Announces Nearly $350,000 in Grant Awards to Support Marine Water Quality, Conservation, and Flood Protection

Funding Will Advance Plans to Reconnect Migratory Habitat for Native Fisheries in Westchester and Suffolk Counties

Projects Affecting Free-Flowing Waters Benefit Water Quality and Long-Term Flood Management

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced $347,484 in grants were awarded to coastal organizations and municipalities to help restore free-flowing waters to benefit water quality, conserve and restore valuable habitat for aquatic species, and increase flood resiliency.

"DEC is proud to work with local partners to help implement projects that restore marine habitats for vulnerable migratory fish like river herring and American eel, and at the same time are designed to mitigate flooding and protect coastal communities," Commissioner Seggos said. "These projects are key to conserve and protect New York's valuable natural resources while we continue to lead the nation in promoting sustainable and resilient communities to combat extreme weather driven by climate change."

The projects awarded funding will support planning and engineering for a dam removal, construction of fish ladders, and right-sizing of culverts that impact American eel and river herring. Both species are designated as New York Species of Greatest Conservation Need. River herring and American eel are diadromous, migrating between freshwater and saltwater during their lifecycles. These species play a vital role in the ecosystem and are an important food source for recreational and commercial fish, marine mammals, migratory birds, river otters, and other mammals. Migratory fish populations have been significantly impacted by coastal development and barriers to tidal waterways such as dams and culverts that restrict access to vital freshwater spawning and nursery habitats.

Project designs will also promote flood resiliency that account for the potential of a 100-year flood. Grant recipients include:

Seatuck Environmental Association, Inc., Great Patchogue Lake Fish Passage Planning Project:

$150,000 to design a fish passage to advance connectivity in Patchogue River at Great Patchogue Lake, a Long Island coastal stream in the village of Patchogue. The Great Patchogue Lake Fish Passage Project will produce a shovel-ready design to pursue future construction funding. Since 2006, river herring have been observed below the Patchogue Lake dam. Additionally, over the past several migration seasons, American eel have been documented. This waterway is one of only two dozen remaining streams on Long Island where remnant river herring runs still exist. Improved connectivity at this location will reconnect tidal habitat to the 40-acre Patchogue Lake and provide river herring and American eel access to additional upstream freshwater habitat, including the 26-acre Canaan Lake where fish passage already exists.

Seatuck Environmental Association, Inc. Executive Director, Enrico Nardone said, "The Patchogue River represents one of the best opportunities on the South Shore to dramatically expand access to freshwater habitat for diadromous fish and other wildlife. Completion of this design project will set the stage to reconnect the river at Patchogue Lake, which will produce significant ecological benefits for not only the river, but our entire coastal ecosystem."

Save the Sound, Blind Brook Dam Reconnaissance and Baseline Monitoring Project:

$109,984 to work collaboratively with the Rye City School District, Rye Sustainability Committee, Rye Conservation Committee, and Rye Nature Center to initiate a dam removal feasibility study for Blind Brook Dam in Rye, Westchester County. The study will identify effects of removing the existing dam, assess upstream barriers, and conduct baseline water quality and nutrient monitoring. Dam removal at this site has the potential to reconnect 3.5 miles of migratory fish habitat for river herring and American eel along Blind Brook. Funds will support project design and lab analysis at Save the Sound's Larchmont laboratory. Throughout the project, community meetings will be held to collect information, share findings, and keep constituents updated on progress and relevant initiatives along Blind Brook.

"Save the Sound would like to thank DEC for their generous funding of the Blind Brook dam reconnaissance project," said Laura Wildman, Regional Director of Ecological Restoration. "The Blind Brook Dam is the first barrier to migratory fish on the Blind Brook and this work will allow us to investigate options for the dam such that historic fish runs can be restored and water quality improved. We are excited to be working on this project with the Rye High School and their students who will play a critical role in this feasibility study, particularly as we monitor water quality upstream and downstream of the dam. It is wonderful when restoration projects can come together under a truly integrated community approach and develop our future river stewards."

Town of Brookhaven, Restore Aquatic Connection of Terrell River for Diadromous Fish:

$87,500 to design and obtain all permits to resize culverts to improve river flow and install a fish passage to allow diadromous fish to move upstream from Terrell River into Kalers Pond in Center Moriches, Suffolk County. The project will remove three culverts, restoring daylight to the river and promoting ecological connectivity and valuable spawning habitat. An environmental consultant will develop design plans and obtain all necessary permits to develop a shovel-ready project that improves water flow for migratory fish and promotes flood resiliency for a minimum 100-year flood. A nature-based design with resting pools to promote fish migration with native plantings along the banks for erosion control, shade, and habitat will be constructed in a way that allows flood water from extreme weather events to be controlled to flow downriver.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine said, "The Town of Brookhaven is proud of our ongoing efforts to promote diadromous fish migration in town waters. Just this year, the Town installed a nature-like fish passage on the Swan River allowing river herring to swim upriver for the first time in over 200 years. We thank the DEC for funding this important project to develop shovel-ready plans to install a nature-like fish passage that promotes aquatic connectivity and reduce flooding on the Terrell River."

Funding is provided by the State's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and is administered under DEC's Division of Marine Resources Marine Habitat Tributary Restoration and Resiliency Grant. Among the many environmental victories in the 2022-23 State Budget (leaves DEC website), Governor Hochul succeeded in increasing the EPF from $300 to $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program's history.

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