Anyone who has visited the Piermont Pier has seen the tall reeds growing at the water’s edge, their feathery plumes waving in the breeze. These are Phragmites australis (pronounced frag-MY-tees), and they are at the center of a growing controversy.
Said to be native to the Great Lakes, Phragmites are extremely vigorous; their population has grown explosively in recent decades; they now blanket wetlands, once home to a wide diversity of plant life.
Enter the DEC, (The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation). As part of the environmental study for the new bridge, the DEC noted that Piermont Marsh is one of four federally designated and state-protected sites along the Hudson estuary and is ranked as “irreplaceable habitat” for baby fish of species important to both river and Atlantic Ocean. Arguing that the native sedges and grasses that long ago inhabited Piermont Marsh did a better job of sheltering young life than do the Phragmites, last March the DEC proposed eradicating Piermont’s Phragmites using herbicides. In other places, they’ve tried burning or mowing.
Piermont residents we’ve spoken with seem pretty upset at the prospect of acres of brown earth where there was once bird life and fish life and insect life and an abundance of amphibians and small mammals.
For an expert’s opinion, The Nyack Villager spoke with Dr. Dorothy Peteet, a paleoclimatologist at Lamont-Doherty, who has spent years investigating wetlands. She said she was concerned about damage to the wildlife. Insects and amphibians tend to be extra-sensitive to the ill effects of industrial poisons. “And the fish and the birds eat the insects,” she added.
Dr. Peteet said a great many questions need answers—among them, how to keep Phragmites from coming back and the worry that, without the support of all the plant roots, the marsh earth might sink below the surface of the water. She said, “I’m sure the DEC wants to act responsibly. People are worried about doing things quickly that might not work.”
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https://www.facebook.com/ThePiermont Marsh Alliance