The multiphase plan to restore Canaan Lake back to its recreational glory days is now, according to Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) in its final phase. Once completed later this summer, the lake will be restored back to its natural state to be used once again as a recreational centerpiece in North Patchogue.
In November, New York Department of Environmental Conservation permit applications were submitted, allowing the project to move into the last phase. They were ultimately approved this January, and the Suffolk County Department of Public Works is currently soliciting bids for a contractor. Calarco acquired an additional $1.65 million in county funding late last year for the completion of the project. Construction is expected to begin in the spring, and the lake should refill late this summer or in early fall.
The project began in 2017 with the installation of a new culvert and sluice gate under Traction Boulevard, which allowed the lake to be drained in 2018 and ultimately dry out the lake bed. In 2019 the lake bed was dry enough to utilize heavy machinery to scrape it and pile sediment along the perimeter to help facilitate further drying.
Now complete, the scraped sediments will be used to build up the existing shorefront and create new parkland northwest and northeast of the lake on county land. The areas, according to Calarco, will provide public access to the water rather than disturbing the side road residents.
“We are dealing with three times the amount of material we originally anticipated,” he explained, noting that original estimates were between 12,000 and 15,000 cubic yards when in reality about 25,000 to 40,000 cubic yards were collected. “[Still] we are expecting to complete this project this year.”
The collected materials will be used, he said, to build up the parkland and essentially build a meadow that sticks into the lake slightly to create an access point. And, depending on funding, Calarco said, the installation of a kayak launch and a playground could be a possibility.
“We really want to make this an attractive recreational spot for the community,” Calarco added.
Lake resident Steve Lucas said he was “absolutely excited” about the reopening of the lake. He and his wife first moved by the lake in 1971 and often used the county parks, which at the time, he said, featured snack bars.
“It was really nice, and had been pristine for years,” he remembered of the way the lake once was, excited to see it restored. “Our first winter here, there were scooter races on the frozen lake. It was terrific. We’d also take the kids swimming or just go down to put our ankles in water.”
Once the lake is refilled, Lucas said, he and his wife would be happy to bring his grandkids back to where his children once enjoyed.
Still, under DEC rules, a portion of the lake will remain untouched due to a deposit of heavy metals that was found during soil sampling before the project began. That portion will be capped with several feet of sand to contain the metals and prevent regrowth of the invasive species.
“DEC continues to work closely with Suffolk County to advance this project,” said a spokesperson for the DEC, also confirming that permits for the project have in fact been awarded.
The sand used to cap the area, Calarco further explained, will also be used from sediment from the lake further deepening the lake and allowing it to flow a little better as well.
“Basically, it’s not harmful if it’s left alone, but you don’t want to stir it up,” he said. Calarco explained that the best bet is to cover the contamination with no future risk.
Once completed, the lake would then naturally fill itself back up after boards have been replaced. It will then be accessible for swimming, fishing, kayaking and other activities.
Restoration project began in 2017
According to the county, over the past several decades the highly invasive cabomba weed and water milfoil crowded out Canaan Lake’s native plant species, which severely hampered the natural habitat and recreational uses of the lake. In an effort to restore the lake, the Canaan Lake Restoration Project was created. Due to significant operational issues, dredging of the lake was not a possibility, and the county decided to go in a different direction.
Work began in 2017 to install a new culvert under Traction Boulevard, which has allowed the lake to drain by slowly pulling and removing boards. Legis. Rob Calarco then announced that work officially had begun to drain Canaan Lake in May 2018. Later that summer (in August), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed legislation to fund Phase Two of the Canaan Lake restoration project. The $1.5 million in funding was used to eradicate invasive weeds and remove sediment in an effort to restore the lake to its original recreational use.