Saturday, May 2, 2009

Long Island Advance: Fish ladder wins award

An article in this week's Long Island Advance (April 30, 2009, p. 6, click link) reports that the fish ladder at the Hard's Lake Dam has received an award from the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Coastal America Partnership for "helping to restore the local eco-system" by "helping to rebuild the native fish population."

This effort is certainly worthwhile. And the article itself is carefully written. But like many essentially publicity pieces, it is weak on providing hard evidence that the goals of the fish ladder project are successful.

How successful have alewives and brook trout been in navigating to the upstream Carman's River? And how successful have they been at spawning?

As I understand it, alewives spawn during March and April. And this is the first spawning season after the fish ladder has been in place. Has there even been time to conduct and analyze a census to measure the ladder's success?

There is also the implication that the Hard's Lake dam is a major factor in the decline of alewives and brook trout along the Eastern seaboard. While allowing its navigation may provide some incremental improvement, it can't be blamed very much for the decline. There has been a dam at this location for at least 260 years. And alewives on the lower Carman's River were plentiful through the 1930s (and perhaps latter).

For perhaps 200 years, brook trout were not "native" on the upper river, but were farmed for the benefit of the wealthy sportsmen of the Suffolk Club. I'm told that brook trout are extremely sensitive to environmental stresses, and that maintaining an adequate supply from the on site hatchery required highly skilled husbandry -- even in the 19th century.

I'm personally not very optimistic for the rivers and streams of Long Island. The rape has already occurred. Increasing population, developer greed, and governmental collusion have done their deed.

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