Historically, Ligonee Brook in Sag Harbor has served as a migration path for alewife, a species of herring, and eels, which travel up the brook from Sag Harbor Cove to spawn in the fresh waters of Long Pond.
But in recent years, the lack of consistent water flow has become an issue in the brook. For that reason, the Peconic Estuary Program has earmarked almost $17,000 towards the research, engineering and design of a restored Ligonee Brook in an effort to re-establish the fish populations.
The Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt (FLPG) want to make sure this project — one of five fish path restoration proposals funded by $80,000 in grants secured by Peconic Estuary Program through the New York Department of Environmental Conservation — earns public support. According to FLPG vice-president Sandra Ferguson, one of those projects will ultimately be implemented through another $100,000 grant, and FLPG members want to do everything they can to make sure their project is considered a top priority.
They are so committed to the restoration, last week FLPG president Dai Dayton said that even if the project is not given funding for implementation, armed with the engineering schematics and research developed over the next two years, the organization would seek funding from the Southampton Town Trustees.
“We are going to make this happen,” said Dayton.
Last spring, the Peconic Estuary Program announced that Land Use Ecological Services had won the state bid to develop a comprehensive plan to restore Ligonee Brook and improve fish migration. Dr. Will Bowman will oversee the project, according to Ferguson, and over the next two years will develop and present his proposal for the brook.
The Ligonee Brook Diadromous Fish Passage Restoration will specifically develop a plan to restore drainage water flow, freshwater wetlands and the alewife and eel run at Ligonee Brook.
Other fish passage restoration proposals being developed through the funding are located in Southold, East Hampton, Shelter Island and Riverhead.
On Friday, October 7, Ferguson and FLPG member Priscilla Ciccariello reached out to the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee for its support.
While Ligonee Brook has traditionally served as a migration path for the fish, because of barriers — some natural, but mostly manmade — like the culvert under Brick Kiln Road and debris in the brook, Ferguson noted there is not always sufficient water flow to allow the migration.
“We, as the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, have cleaned the shores and the bed of the brook, we have cared for the creek, but this is an opportunity for a very serious restoration project that will restore the natural flow of the brook,” said Ferguson.
With no guarantees the project will be implemented, Ferguson said FLPG is reaching out to local civic groups and organizations to help raise public awareness about Ligonee Brook and its potential restoration.
“We want every level of government to understand this project has strong community support,” said Ferguson. “We want to be the voice of the Long Pond Greenbelt as this moves forward and we would like you to be with us.”
The CAC agreed to be a vocal organization in support of the project.
According to Ciccariello, one aspect of the Ligonee Brook restoration that makes it a viable contender for financing is that it is a digestible project, that wouldn’t likely take much funding to implement.
“But even if we don’t win that prize we will still have the schematics, which is quite a gift in itself,” she said.