2023 Gold Award Recipient 

Byron Young Fish Passage

Suffolk County Department of Public Works

This project entails the study, design, permitting, and construction of a pool and weir fish passage and a separate eel passage at Woodhull’s Dam located on the Little River which is a tributary to the Peconic River in Riverhead, NY. The project included restoration and improvement to the ecosystem and fisheries of the Peconic River, which contains State-designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats. The goal was attained by providing passage for primary target species including Alewife and American Eel.

Woodhull’s Dam was identified by the NYSDEC as a critical obstruction in the migration of both Alewife and American Eel’s. With headwaters that are approximately six feet higher than tailwaters it is virtually impossible for fish to migrate beyond this point and move further upstream to spawn. The fish that reach this point become trapped and are consequently left vulnerable to predators such as Ospreys and fisherman. Volunteers helped to move fish from one side of the dam to the other using throw nets and buckets. Although helpful, it was an ineffective way to aid in a critical migration process such as this. Installation of a fish passage at this location effectively and efficiently provided the target species with access to nearly 100 Acres of breeding ground on the south side of the dam which includes 4 other water bodies. This more than doubles the amount of spawning and maturation habitat available and will increase the population of Alewife, American Eel and other species.

Part of the project included installing a camera and fish counter which will monitor the effectiveness of the fish passage (video below).  This valuable feedback will be useful for environmental stakeholders such as the Department of Environmental Conservation, Suffolk County, and the Peconic Estuary Program.  Anticipated future uses include providing this information to other environmental groups and for use as an educational component with public interaction. A viewing platform was incorporated into the design for accessibility and monitoring by scientists.

Long Island has made it a priority to clean local water bodies and groundwater through many varied programs.  The invasive species removal and wetland restoration aspect of the project continues to advance this water protection initiative.  The project enhances nutrient cycling, restores spawning and nursery habitat, increases fish populations and balances the freshwater and tidal stream corridor. The wetlands for this project were restored at a 2:1 ratio as the construction created a disruption to the existing wetlands.