Multiple soil and water conservation districts in the Upper Hudson River watershed will be working on erosion prevention projects this year thanks to a $389,178 grant awarded through the state’s Regional Economic Development Council.
The work will help protect the water quality of multiple lakes, rivers and ponds across the region by keeping sediment and nutrients from polluting them.
The Upper Hudson Watershed Coalition is made up of conservation districts in Saratoga, Washington, Warren, Essex, Hamilton, Rensselaer and Fulton counties. More than 90 sites covering 33.5 acres in the watershed will be slated for some erosion repairs, according to the council’s award announcement.
The funding is awarded through the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Water Quality Improvement Program. It’s part of a devoted $103 million for water quality improvement projects across the state, in part to help reduce toxic algal blooms.
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“Access to clean water is critical to the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of our communities,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in a news release. “With Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo’s leadership, New York is investing millions of dollars to protect and restore invaluable water resources statewide and addressing growing threats like harmful algal blooms.”
Dustin Lewis, manager of the Saratoga County Soil and Water Conservation District, said the latest grant is part two of one awarded a few years ago, where the coalition mapped out erosion problem areas that were of high and medium priority.
“In total, the project is projected to stabilize 33.5 acres throughout all the counties in the project, and hold 13 tons of sediment that would have otherwise flowed into water bodies and streams, including the Sacandaga Reservoir, and also reduce phosphorous and nitrogen loading that travels with the sediment,” Lewis said.
Jim Lieberum, district manager for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, added that projects will include things like hydroseeding, ditch maintenance and roadside stabilization.
Lewis said Saratoga County will focus on the Sacandaga Reservoir where the soils are particularly sandy and tend to fail along roadsides.
In Warren County, the problem areas where projects will start this spring and summer include Johnsburg, Lake Luzerne and southern Stony Creek.
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In Washington County, District Manager Corrina Aldrich said work will focus primarily on the southern portion of the county including the Battenkill and sites along Cossayuna Lake.
“In Cossayuna, the depth of the water is not as deep,” Aldrich said. “It’s a shallow lake to begin with. It doesn’t need to have added sediment from areas that erode, and when you have erosion and it makes it into the waterways, it brings increased phosphorous into the waterways, too, because of the phosphorous being tied to the soil particles.”
Nutrients like phosphorous can lead to harmful algal blooms, which is what happened in Cossayuna Lake this summer. It was one of three water bodies in Saratoga and Washington counties to have a confirmed toxic bloom. The other two this year included Saratoga Lake and Summit Lake.
Toxic algal blooms are also known as cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria is a naturally occurring, photosynthesizing bacteria that sometimes produces toxins called microcystin and anatoxin. Both are bad for human health, and when detected at high levels can cause beach closures.
Aldrich said the district is planning a workshop on harmful algal blooms at the end of March, which will be open to the public.
Lewis said these erosion control projects are also important considering the increased number of intense storms in the region, which is in part due to climate change.
“You overbuild a little bit with the assumption that the amount of rainfall and the intensity of rainfall is going to increase over the next couple of decades,” Lewis said. “We want to make sure every project we do doesn’t fail because of that.”
In addition to the coalition’s grant from the state, the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District received $65,200 that Lieberum said will supply materials for its hydroseeding program that performs routine maintenance for area towns.