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Yaphank’s Lower Lake to be drained, scraped of sediment

Lower Lake in Yaphank on June 1, 2017.

Lower Lake in Yaphank on June 1, 2017. Photo Credit: T.J. Lambui

Brookhaven officials plan to soon begin work on a long-awaited project to remove nonnative plants and two centuries’ worth of mud from the bottom of Lower Lake in Yaphank.

The 25-acre lake will be drained and heavy equipment will be used to scrape several feet of muck from the bottom, town officials said in interviews last week. The project, expected to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million, is expected to begin within weeks and may be completed by next spring.

Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said officials hope to restore the lake to “as close to crystal clear as we can. . . . Our goal is to do this right and to save the lake.”

Lower Lake, also known as Lily Lake, and nearby Upper Lake were built about 250 years ago when residents chopped down trees along the Carmans River and filled the cleared land with water. The lakes were used to power sawmills and grist mills.

During the past two centuries, the lakes slowly became filled with leaves and other organic material, which caused sediment to collect on the lake bottoms, said Chad Trusnovec, vice president of the Yaphank Taxpayers and Civic Association. Invasive species such as cabomba and variable-leaf watermilfoil also grew in the lakes, he said.

Lower Lake, which should be 8 feet to 10 feet deep, instead is 3 feet to 5 feet deep because of the sediment, Trusnovec said.

“There’s areas upstream you can’t get through with a canoe,” said Trusnovec, whose family has lived on the lake for decades. “It’s becoming worse and worse each year.”

Removing sediment and invasive plants will allow the lake to “go back to the way it was literally 250 years ago,” he said. “To say the community is excited about it is an understatement.”

Romaine said boards would be removed temporarily from a dam to drain the lake so that low-ground pressure equipment can be brought in to excavate the bottom. Sediment removed from the lake will be dumped at the town landfill, he said.

Town officials said the state Department of Environmental Conservation is issuing permits for the project, and town Councilman Michael Loguercio said draining the lake is expected to start soon after the town receives the permits.

Loguercio said fish and other wildlife that live in Lower Lake are expected to move into the Carmans River and springs that feed the lake as it is drained.

Town officials abandoned earlier plans to dredge Lower Lake after sediment spilled into it during a 2014 effort to dredge Upper Lake.

The new plan could be complicated by underground springs that may make some areas of the lake off-limits to excavation equipment.

“We don’t know where they’re located,” town operations director Matt Miner said of the springs. “You’re not going to know where you can get access to the lake.”

Romaine said the work would be called off if scraping the lake proves impossible.

“We can stop this at any time if it doesn’t work as it’s intended to work,” he said.

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