Seatuck Environmental Association, a nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation on Long Island, held a webinar on June 8 discussing their plans to move forward with their plans to renovate the dam at Mill Pond Creek in Bellmore. These renovations aim to lower the slope of the dam, making it easier for the nearby river herring to move between the pond and Bellmore Creek.
River herring are a type of diadromous fish, meaning they can survive in both freshwater and saltwater environments. They migrate between Mill Pond Creek and the ocean, using Bellmore Creek as a highway.
Because they spend part of their time in the freshwaters of Bellmore and part of their time in the nearby coastal areas, they are an important source of food for many species in both ecosystems. Dolphins, otters, coastal birds and many other types of fish rely on the river herring for food. If river herring cannot travel between these two bodies of water, other animals could face food shortages.
“Restoring connectivity will increase the population [of river herring,] but also bring back a host of other wildlife to Bellmore Creek that will eat them,” said Emily Hall, a conservation policy advocate for the Seatuck Environmental Association.
According to the webinar, Princeton Hydro will oversee the planning and engineering behind the dam redesign project. As of right now, they have three designs in mind for the dam: One is a utilitarian, prefabricated passageway; the second is a natural, stream-like design that mimics what the fish are accustomed to; and the third design option is to lower the dam altogether.
Each of these three designs has inherent benefits and drawbacks. The nature-like passageway, while aesthetically pleasing, has the highest estimated price tag out of the three plans. The dam lowering, overall, would be most beneficial to the ecological health of Mill Pond Creek, and could cost roughly as little as the prefabricated fish passageway if executed ideally. But it’s a gamble — if lowering the dam creates a muddy mess in the river, cleaning up the runoff will raise the overall price of the project.
“The dam lowering… could also start out low,” said Paul Woodworth, senior project manager at Princeton Hydro. “It really just depends on how well we can position the height of that dam to restore passage and minimize the amount of sediment management.”
Following the webinar, the advisory committee gathered feedback from the community and plans to meet with the Nassau County Government to finalize plans in the indefinite future. For more information on the dam redesign project, visit https://seatuck.org/bellmore-creek/.