Tuesday, March 29, 2016

RE: Newsday article- Carmans River making a comeback

From: Richard Thomas
Sent: Monday, March 28, 2016 11:20 PM
Subject: RE: Newsday article- Carmans River making a comeback


Carmans River woos back herring, other fish, Brookhaven says

Walter Czekaj, a recreational fisherman from Islip who said he plies the waters of the Carmans several times a week, said he has noticed more fish in the river, as well as otters and osprey that feed on fish.

The otter had become extinct on Long Island, according to a report published in 1842.

However, otters had begun to be reappear on the island near the end of the nineteenth century, with single specimens being killed at Yaphank, Calverton, Brookhaven, and Patchogue in the period between 1875 and 1901.

Arthur H. Helme wrote an article entitled "Notes on the Mammals of Long Island, New York," for the Abstract of the Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of New York for the Year Ending March 11, 1902, p. 19.  (This particular article was revised July 15, 1902.)

Mr. Helme wrote:

                Lutra Canadensis (Schreber). NORTHEASTERN OTTER.

. . . There is in the collection of the Long Island Historical Society a fine mounted specimen, presented by the late William J. Weeks of Yaphank.  It was killed by George Albin . . . There was a specimen taken near Yaphank, somewhere about the year 1875, and possibly this may be the specimen now owned by the society.
                Mr. A. B. Gerard of Brook Haven, Long Island, kindly writes me, "The last Otter killed in this section was in Carmans River by Edward Bartran [sic, it should be Edward Barteau] station agent at Brook Haven in 1898.  The one before that by George Albin of Bayshore and sold to Wm. J. Weeks of Yaphank and presented by Mr. Weeks to the Long Island Historical Society."

It's no wonder the otter had a difficult time re-establishing itself on Long Island if, on seeing one, the first impulse was to kill it and present it to the historical society.

Mr. A. B. Gerard was Captain Abither Bell Gerard.  He ran a ferry, a large sloop called the Fanny Fern, that went between Squassux Landing and the Smith Point Hotel.  Alfred Nelson says ". . . Captain Gerard was rather natty.  He had a blue coat with brass buttons and a captain's hat . . ."  He married four times.

                      Captain Abither Bell Gerard

Between 1875 and 1969, eight otters were trapped or shot on Long Island, and according to Peconic Baykeeper, there were only a handful of sightings between 1920 and 1957.  They were on the Peconic River, Shelter Island, and at Lake Montauk.  It was believed that these were single individuals that had somehow made it over to Long Island from Connecticut.

By 2008 however, otters were again breeding on Long Island and were sometimes spotted in rivers and ponds along the north shore from Oyster Bay to Greenport and also in East Hampton.

                See: http://mikebottini.com/Winter2012Update.pdf


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Carmans River woos back herring, other fish, Brookhaven says


Carmans River woos back herring, other fish, Brookhaven says

The Carmans River is experiencing an environmental comeback. A scene in Shirley, March 22, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Recent sightings of herring and other fish in the Carmans River — the 10-mile-long estuary that runs from Middle Island to Great South Bay — are a sign that efforts to revive the imperiled waterway are paying off, officials say.

Schools of blueback herring and alewives have been spotted swimming upstream to spawn, thanks to improved fish passages built in recent years and the removal of dams that had blocked fish from moving north from the bay, officials said.

The payoff for Brookhaven Town officials came earlier this month when Anthony Graves, the town's chief environmental analyst, reported seeing large numbers of herring in the river near Montauk Highway in Brookhaven hamlet.

"We've done a lot of damage over the years to the river," Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said recently. "But left to its own devices, nature can heal itself."

Efforts to protect and rehabilitate the Carmans began in recent years after centuries of neglect.

Dams built along parts of the river almost 300 years ago to power grist mills had the unintended effect of disrupting spawning routes for native fish. The river also was lined with duck farms, campsites and houses that filled the river with untreated sewage runoff, causing high levels of nitrogen that cut off oxygen for wildlife.

Brookhaven has passed tougher zoning restrictions to reduce development along the river, and town officials plan to require improved sewage treatment systems at new homes.

The state Department of Transportation in 2008 installed a fish passage to replace a dam in the Sunrise Highway roadbed at Hards Lake in Southaven County Park in Brookhaven hamlet. Graves said herring have been seen since then as far north as the Long Island Expressway.

Town officials have announced plans to remove more dams. And federal authorities plan to build fish passages on Yaphank Creek, a tributary of the Carmans, later this year.

Walter Czekaj, a recreational fisherman from Islip who said he plies the waters of the Carmans several times a week, said he has noticed more fish in the river, as well as otters and osprey that feed on fish.

"There's more and more of them every year," Czekaj said one day recently as he prepared to spend a few hours fishing the river. "Now the fish can go and spawn there upstream without the dam there. . . . It helps everybody."

The state Department of Environmental Conservation stocks the river with rainbow and brown trout, supplementing the river's supply of native brook trout.

Larger numbers of fish are among the factors that have brought back birds such as osprey and bald eagles that all but disappeared from Long Island because of environmental degradation 50 years ago, officials said.

Federal officials plan to restore 283 acres of tidal marshes at the mouth of the Carmans in Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, a former estate in Shirley.

Ditches were dug in the 1940s in an unsuccessful attempt to stem flooding, refuge manager Michelle Potter said, adding that such systems only managed to serve as breeding grounds for insects.

"It shouldn't have been a mosquito factory," she said.

The Carmans River comes back

Running for 10 miles through the town of Brookhaven, the Carmans had long been degraded environmentally. But through a number of key efforts such as improved fish passages and removal of old dams, fish such as herring are returning in great numbers.

Named for a 19th century resident named Samuel Carman, the river is fresh water for most of its length before it enters the tidal waters of the Great South Bay. It passes through Southaven County Park and is bordered by the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.




Friday, March 25, 2016

Fire Island breach from superstorm Sandy leads to discoveries


Fire Island breach from superstorm Sandy leads to discoveries



The breach caused by superstorm Sandy at the eastern end of Fire Island has changed water conditions in the area, 

and may have exposed a shipwreck. March 16, 2016 Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

The breach that cut through Fire Island during superstorm Sandy is yielding new treasures, giving scientists the chance to study changes in the barrier island and examine how oysters respond in the Great South Bay.

It also may have helped reveal a shipwreck from 1821 lost to the sand and tides despite searches over the years.

When Sandy struck in 2012, the storm cut through Fire Island in three places. Two breaches were closed and a third was left open because it was in a wilderness area of Fire Island National Seashore.

The National Park Service opted to keep the cut there but said it would monitor the breach and change course if it became a threat to the South Shore.

More than three years later, the breach is about as wide as five football fields. Broad shoaling — ridge-like formations of sand, some below surface and some not — has occurred on the bay side, and a channel through which much of the water flows has narrowed from previous surveys.

0:45 SuffolkSonar used to map Fire Island sea bed by students

"These things change month to month or even faster," said Charles Flagg, a professor at Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, who is studying the breach. "It doesn't seem to be getting bigger overall. [But] it's always going to be doing something."

The water movement also is forming a sand flood plain on the bay side just to the north of the cut, limiting the amount of water that moves between the Atlantic Ocean and Great South Bay, Flagg said.

Swimming or boating in the breach is prohibited. Seashore Park Ranger Elizabeth Rogers said "the area north of the breach is dangerous to navigate," but there have been no major incidents.

Widespread flooding in South Shore communities — an early concern about the breach as far away as Lindenhurst — has not occurred. Salinity inside the bay near Bellport, which is across from the inlet, has increased a bit. High tide there comes about 20 minutes earlier, and environmentalists say the water near the cut is clearer than before Sandy. A bloom of brown tide in that area was less intense and shorter than in other parts of the bay because of the continuous flushing of water that the breach allows, according to an annual report Flagg wrote and released last week.

Tide gauges show that the overall difference between low and high ties in Lindenhurst is about 1.5 inches but tide times have not been affected, the report said.

Study of what to do with breach

The National Park Service is undertaking a study of what to do with the breach and this summer should release a draft environmental report evaluating options, Rogers said.

They include: keep the breach open and natural; leave the breach open, but have options to close it should it become a danger; stabilize and create a new inlet; or close the breach. As part of that study, the Park Service asked people to comment on the options.

Of the 366 commenters, 42 percent want the breach to be left open and managed, 20 percent oppose closure, 12 percent favor creating a stable inlet and nearly 9 percent want it closed, according to a report released last month.

Though the inlet represents a route for less than 10 percent of the total water moving in and out of the Great South Bay, fishermen and others who use the bay say water quality has improved in an area that once was a haven for shellfish before overfishing and polluted waters led to declining oyster and clam stocks.

The breach offers a chance to reclaim some of the bay for oyster populations, said Thomas V. Schultz, a co-chair of Friends of Bellport Bay, founded after Sandy to provide residents with updates on the breach, get public officials to tackle nitrogen pollution problems and return oysters to the water.

The group, in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven, seeded 100,000 baby and older oysters last summer in an area around Ridge Island, which is in the bay and just west of the breach. The group obtained permission for the seeding from the Park Service and the town, which both prohibit shellfishing there.

Oysters — beyond their historical significance in the area — can filter 50 gallons of water per day, taking in the nitrogen and then dropping it on the sea floor to feed other sea life. "The bays are being polluted by nitrogen runoff," Schultz said. "The great thing about oysters is they love nitrogen — they feed on nitrogen."

The group hopes to plant a million oysters within five years. Recently, Schultz took a boat to the site and said the oysters were established and growing.

The hope is they will flourish because of the ideal conditions — cleaner water because of the water exchange allowed by the breach, a lack of harvesting and protections created by the flood delta formed in response to the breach, said Gregg Rivara, a aquaculture specialist with the cooperative extension

"The delta acts like a thick sandbar and really cuts down on the wave action," Rivara said.

Friends of Bellport Bay want the breach to remain open. "We believe that the inlet is very important to the survival of the oyster colony," Schultz said.

Remains of ship uncovered

The breach and Sandy also helped uncover some of Fire Island's past.

Walking along the western part of Fire Island near the breach last spring, Schultz came upon a long oak plank, with metal shanks spaced about every four feet. He also found a wooden attachment used to thread rigging ropes on sailboats.

A history buff, Schultz believes the pieces are from the S.S. Savannah, which foundered and came apart near the spot in November 1821.

The Savannah was the first steam-powered ship to cross the Atlantic and did so with great fanfare, as it was fitted with both steam power and sail rigging. Ultimately, the ship was too expensive to operate and the owners removed the steam power, converting it into a cargo ship. On its last journey it was said to be hauling cotton.

The ship hit a sandbar around 3 a.m. during a bad storm on a night without stars visible in the sky, said Wendy Melton, the curator of exhibits and education at the Ships of the Seas Maritime Museum in Savannah, Georgia, which has a model of the ship that was built there. Stuck on a sandbar and battered by waves, it took a week before the ship sprung a leak, but the pounding took its toll. "The waves came in," Melton said. "It was pulling the sand away from her and she was sinking deeper and deeper."

Some of the cargo and parts of the boat were salvaged, but the hull and other parts were left behind. An exact location was never marked down and enthusiasts, the government and others have searched for the ship over the years, dating to the late 1950s, according to "Claimed by the Sea: Long Island Shipwrecks" by Locust Valley resident Adam M. Grohman, published in 2008.

Melton said finding it would be "astonishing," but most searches have focused on the water, not dunes.

Schultz reported the find to the Park Service, which asked researchers from The College of William & Mary to take a look as they worked on a separate research project on the island. They took pictures and GPS coordinates, said Chris Olijnyk, cultural resources manager for Fire Island National Seashore.

For the time being, the pieces are considered wreck fragments and staying where they are. Much of the structure is buried under sand covered in dune growth. Visitors are prohibited from removing or disturbing artifacts, Rogers said.

"It's in a federal wilderness area," he said. "It's stable. It's not going to move."

Survey work of any kind involving mechanical equipment would require a special variance because the find is in a protected wilderness area. If the seashore decides to close the breach, an archaeological survey would have to take place.

"It could be the Savannah," Olijnyk said. "The Savannah wrecked in that general area, but so did dozens of others. The list is extensive."

Schultz said he hopes additional testing or research can help determine whether the pieces are the Savannah.

"Mother Nature is acting like an archaeologist right now, exposing and uncovering things," Schultz said. "I think there is a chance this could be a major archaeological find."