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May 9, 2006, FARMINGVILLE, NY –Brookhaven Supervisor Brian X. Foley joined with Environmental Defense, represented by renowned actress Isabella Rossellini, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy on Tuesday to announce an aggressive new program to restore key stream habitats in Brookhaven Town.

Historically, migratory fish, including alewives, American eel, and the majestic brook trout, made their way from the sea into the rivers of the South Shore Estuary Reserve to use freshwater spawning and nursery grounds.  However, nearly 60 miles of the best quality upstream habitat are currently inaccessible to these fish because of more than 30 obsolete dams.

Environmental Defense, in cooperation with the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County, is launching an initiative to restore these migratory fish runs, with a goal of giving fish access to at least 30 new river miles over the next 10 years.  This will be achieved by dam removals, where possible, or installing fish ladders.

As a first step, Environmental Defense worked with Suffolk County, the Town of Brookhaven, the South Shore Estuary Reserve, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited to win nearly $1.5 million through the 1996 Clean Air/Clean Water Bond Act to open the Carmans River, Swan River and Mud Creek to fish passage.  Now, Environmental Defense is leading a stakeholder work group in identifying and prioritizing the next generation of fish passage projects on Long Island.

Once fish can again migrate up rivers, it must be ensured they have clean water and quality habitat.  To that end, Environmental Defense is supporting a variety of efforts by Supervisor Foley and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.  Both have acquired property to protect as open space within the watersheds, particularly along the Carmans River.  And both are going beyond open space protection to active watershed restoration efforts.

“Working to protect the South Shore Estuary Reserve and the streams that are the life-giving tributaries of that system has been a primary objective of my environmental policy since taking office,” said Supervisor Foley at a press conference at Warbler Woods, which was renamed Dennis Puleston Warbler Woods Preserve at the press conference. “Let me list a few accomplishment in my campaign to preserve and protect the estuary:

--“We have purchased, both alone and in partnership with the county and state, 713 acres of open space in the Reserve.  This includes about 500 acres in the Carman's River watershed, the 38-acre Godzieba property in the Forge River watershed, and 9 acres along Hart's Cove. We also purchased the development rights to 40 acres along the Terrell’s River in Center Moriches.

--“The Town played a catalytic role in focusing attention on the Forge River by establishing the Forge River Protection Task Force via town resolution. This Task Force has begun to develop a comprehensive strategy to restore the Forge River to health. This includes having the Forge River placed on the State's Impaired Waters List, mapping of the drainage infrastructure, and applying for grant money to prepare a Watershed Action Plan.

--“We received a $560,000 state grant to restore anadromous fish habitat through the installation of fish passages, and controlling stormwater runoff and aquatic invasive species in the Carman's and Swan Rivers.

--“We received an $80,000 state grant to develop a Watershed Action Plan for the Swan River, and established a Swan River Action Committee to provide oversight to the project. I expect that plan to be completed by the end of this year.

--“The Town continues mapping drainage infrastructure to determine stormwater inputs into Reserve tributaries.  The second year of mapping will take place in 2006; by end of the year mapping for Reserve tributaries will be completed.”

“At this time of year on Cape Cod, families gather along the banks of rivers and welcome the return of alewives from the vast Atlantic Ocean,” said Ms. Rossellini. “By restoring open rivers on our Island, we can share this same enchanting experience that we have missed out on for so long.”

“Long Island’s brook trout streams once offered fishing that was among the best in the world, because trout could freely access both clean, cold-water spawning grounds and rich, productive estuarine feeding grounds,” said Environmental Defense marine scientist Dr. Jake Kritzer. “Restoring that connection will restore those fisheries to their former splendor.”

“The roots of Environmental Defense lie on Long Island in an effort to save our beloved ospreys from the effects of DDT,” said Environmental Defense general counsel Jim Tripp. “Faced with a declining food supply, our new initiative will again help ensure that these birds always soar in our skies by rejuvenating depleted alewife runs.”

“The history of Environmental Defense is one of a close relationship with Long Island communities,” said Dr. Kritzer. “We are excited to have Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven supporting our fish restoration initiative, and we are equally excited to support their important watershed projects that will protect key habitats we will open once again to fish.”

County Executive Levy presided over the official renaming of Warbler Woods County Park to the Dennis Puleston Warbler Woods Preserve after the naturalist, boat designer, yachtsman and Brookhaven resident who, as founding chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund, played a leading role in getting the insecticide DDT banned in the United States, advocated for open space preservation and protecting Long Island’s environment.

Levy also announced the recent acquisition of an additional 80 acres of the AVR property and the 30-acre Rodgers Horse Farm in Yaphank, both in the Carmans River watershed, as well as more than $2 million in stormwater remediation projects and habitat restoration activities for the area.

County Legislator Kate Browning praised the efforts of Environmental Defense, the county and the town.

“Protecting our rivers and streams is key to protecting the South Shore Estuary,” said Legislator Browning. “The county and town have worked together to preserve important watershed properties, and we will continue to act aggressively to preserve key river parcels. Environmental Defense’s initiative to remove these obsolete dams is another important part of the cooperative effort that is necessary if this effort to save our waterways is to succeed.

Posted on Friday, May 12, 2006 (Archive on Monday, December 31, 2007)