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Another setback on plan to clean up Yaphank lake

Lily Lake in Yaphank is overrun with invasive

Lily Lake in Yaphank is overrun with invasive plants and sediment. Credit: James Carbone

Brookhaven Town is exploring new options for removing sediment and invasive plants from a Yaphank lake after agreeing to give up a state permit to dredge the pond.

Brookhaven will relinquish its permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation after the town and Suffolk County officials on Jan. 6 reached an agreement with Sag Harbor environmental group Defend H2O, which had opposed the town’s $2.5 million plan to drain Lower Yaphank Lake.

Defend H2O last year had threatened to sue the town and county, saying dredging the 23-acre lake could harm trout that spawn downstream in the Carmans River. The group’s president, Kevin McAllister, said he will not pursue legal action because the town is giving up the permit.

Brookhaven town attorney Annette Eaderesto said officials are working with private consultants to find alternative methods of restoring the lake, also known as Lily Lake. She said dredging had proved to be a poor way to clean the lake, because it stirred up sediment and caused turbidity, or cloudy water.

“We basically agreed to give up a permit that we couldn’t accomplish the dredging with,” Eaderesto said in an interview. “We weren’t going to proceed with that, anyway.”

The development is the latest setback in yearslong efforts to clean the lake, which is filled with weeds so high that fishing and boating are virtually impossible.

Chad Trusnovec, who lives on the lake’s north shore and had generally supported the town's plan, said he was “beyond disappointed” by the agreement.

“This has hit roadblock after roadblock,” said Trusnovec, vice president of the Yaphank Taxpayers and Civic Association. “This lake and this waterway has been studied nine ways to Sunday for years and years and years, and their answer is always they need more studies.”

The agreement also calls for the town to monitor water temperature and sediment deposits in the lake.

McAllister said the town should remove dams and let river water flow the way it did hundreds of years ago, before the lake was created for the area’s grist mill industry. Natural water flow would allow the lake and river to clean themselves, he said.

“The wetlands will come back and that’s really the outcome desired by our organization,” McAllister said. “It’s all a positive and inexpensive remedy, but the political will that is necessary just hasn’t been there so far.”

Eaderesto said she could not estimate when a new cleanup effort might begin.

"We’re looking for cutting-edge technologies,” she said. “There’s new things coming out every day. We’re hoping it’ll help us get rid of the invasive species.”

DEC officials said they would work with Brookhaven to find another means of cleaning the lake. Suffolk spokesman Derek Poppe said county officials are “committed to wetland recovery and stand ready to work with the Town of Brookhaven and our environmental partners to ensure the proper remediation of this site.”

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