By Holly Crocco
Southeast residents – particularly those living along Peach Lake Brook – were recently treated to a presentation by a certified lake manager regarding a vegetation survey of the channel that was completed this spring.
“Pleach Lake Brook contains a mix of native and invasive aquatic plant species, and a lot of that vegetation is impeding the flow between Peach Lake and East Branch Reservoir,” explained Nicole White, owner of Little Bear Environmental, during the June 22 Southeast Town Board meeting.
Residents who live along the Peach Lake Brook are looking to remediate flooding that occurs along the culvert and outlet, and the Starr Ridge Manor Civic Association was previously granted $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding that was gifted from Putnam County to hire White to complete a study and make a recommendation for remediation.
“There are significant areas where sediment and detritus – plant material that is breaking down, where all that material is deposited in certain locations,” she said.
According to White, a proposal to remove above-ground aquatic vegetation through the book in a 10-foot-wide swath would likely be successful. “Based on my findings, yes, removing aquatic vegetation and root material, that proposal will be very affective at moving water more easily through Peach Lake Brook,” she said.
According to White, emergent, floating and submersed species are reaching nuisance densities, where more than 45 percent of the water column is vegetated and/or more than 45 percent of the 10-foot swath is encroached with vegetation.
“Think about hair clogged in a drain, that’s really how it was,” she said of some areas of the brook she visited. “It filled the entire water column. It was very hard to move through.”
Out of 42 points sampled, 33 had dense abundance of plants, including 19 species, said White. Some of these areas have “pinch points” where the water depth is shallow due to a build-up of new and old material, which impedes water flow.
However, much of this can be addressed, and without impacting the habitat, according to White.
“With careful consideration, management activities can be designed so that you don’t have significant impacts to surrounding ecosystems, but you can maintain that channel for its function it was designed for,” she said.
For example, frogs that make a home in the area will be done breeding by the time of the vegetation removal, and the nesting season for the red-winged blackbirds that are also found in the brook will be over, so they shouldn’t be impacted.
White warned residents that the initial removal will need to be followed up with routine maintenance but, for now, residents may want to go forward with the proposal.
“An additional aquatic plant survey would be helpful for August because it would give us an idea of exactly how much material needs to be removed, so when the contractor goes in with the equipment, they know a better idea of how much time it’s going to take and budget and things like that,” said White.
Town Supervisor Tony Hay reiterated the fact that removal would just be “round one.”
“This was very well spent,” he said of the ARPA funding that was used to hire White for the survey. “She did a really good presentation and it was a very little amount of money and we learned an awful lot. Now is the tougher part of getting it done. So, in the future, once this money runs out, the people in that district are going to have to do something to keep it going. It’s not a one-shot deal. It’s like mowing your lawn.”
Hay also noted that the brook is a long channel that doesn’t have a great pitch, so it may always see some backup. “It’s a long way to go and a very small pitch,” he said. “No matter what you do, it’s not going to flow like people think a normal channel would work.”
At a town board meeting in May, Brad Schwartz of Starr Ridge Manor explained that the Peach Lake Environmental Coalition has formed a committee to address long-term maintenance of the brook, to determine what it will take to keep vegetation from regrowing, and where the money to do so can come from.