Watershed Plan Case Study

Lower Hudson Watershed

Wappinger Creek

  Wappinger Creek is one of five major tributaries to the lower Hudson River Estuary and drains a watershed of over 180 square miles. Past disturbances to the creek such as dredging, road and railroad crossings, and low density residential development, have caused a decline in water quality and habitat diversity. In addition, the invasive exotic water chestnut has become especially problematic in slow-moving sections of the creek.

In response to these issues, the Wappinger Creek Watershed Intermunicipal Council was formed to improve and preserve the natural beauty and integrity of Wappinger Creek. The Council provides a forum for nonprofit organizations, concerned citizens, and municipal governments to discuss existing conditions, research and management needs, and to identify implementation opportunities within the watershed.

Steep slopes along the creek’s natural buffer are threatened by erosion. In an effort to address these erosion issues, the intermunicipal council developed a framework for restoring the streambank and provided an avenue for a coordinated volunteer effort to put the restoration plan into action. With technical assistance from the Dutchess County Environmental Management Council (EMC), the two groups developed site-specific restoration designs and settled on a two-phase program to rebuild, strengthen, and re-vegetate the streambank.

Phase I involved re-establishing the creek’s natural elevation and stabilizing its streambank. Biodegradable mats were used to hold the bank in place, and grasses and willow fascines were planted to further stabilized the bank. A variety of partners made the restoration project a reality: Trout Unlimited; a local quarry that provided the rip rap used for stabilization; the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which provided conservation grass mixes; the Town of LaGrange Highway Department, an important source of equipment and manpower; Vassar College, which provided land for a willow nursery; local boy scouts, who were hands-on volunteers; and local landowners who provided easements that facilitated restoration. Phase II of the project will include additional vegetative planting along the streambank to provide long-term stability and provide shade and cover for wildlife.

This case study appears in Chapter 6 of the Watershed Plans Guidebook.

 The Bronx River Watershed

The Bronx River, draining 56 square miles of suburban and urban land, begins at the Kenisco Reservoir and flows 25 miles before entering the East River. Throughout its history, the Bronx River has been an important transportation corridor and has supported flour, paper, and tapestry mills, while its watershed served as home to thousands. By the early 1900s, the Bronx River was severely degraded and often described as an "open sewer."

The Bronx River Watershed Coalition, established in 2005 and comprised of the City of New York and fourteen municipalities in Westchester County, has been working to characterize the physical conditions of the river and its watershed as one of the first steps in developing a comprehensive watershed management plan.

Westchester County performed desktop analyses and field investigations to collect watershed data. The County and its consultants went on to complete baseline watershed assessments, hot spot investigations, neighborhood source assessments, and stream assessments. New York City is also conducting similar assessments in their portion of the watershed. Through the Ecological Restoration and Management Program, the Bronx River Alliance, a coalition of nonprofit community groups, has joined with local governments in the effort and has partnered with agencies and organizations to assess and characterize the Bronx River.

The Alliance is involved in a variety of studies and planning projects which have helped form the basis for educational stewardship programs that allow the public to become engaged with the river. Working with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the Alliance developed the Bronx River Action Plan, which identifies public access and park areas in need of restoration and opportunities to improve water quality and habitat. One resulting project – the Greenway Trail – brings people to the water by linking open spaces along the river. School groups have participated in the project by replanting and restoring riverbanks, completing watershed assessments, and performing other stewardship activities.

Characterizing the watershed has helped to build an understanding of the landscape and how individual activities can impact water quality. This understanding will enable the Bronx River Watershed Coalition to achieve the shared goals of improving water quality, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, and creating new opportunities for public use and enjoyment of the river. Having an intermunicipal watershed management plan that reflects watershed conditions and includes a list of prioritized projects will set the course for effective restoration and protection of the Bronx River ecosystem.

This case study appears in Chapter 3 of the Watershed Plans Guidebook.

Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee

The Fishkill Creek watershed drains approximately 190 square miles, or 123,000 acres, and includes 14 municipalities in the Hudson River Basin. The Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee is a grassroots organization dedicated to the protection of the Fishkill Creek. The Committee includes members of the general public and is dedicated to a policy of non-advocacy, non-partisan, science-based work. Its stated mission is “to encourage individuals and entities, both public and private, to work for the protection of the natural environment within the Fishkill Creek Watershed.” In meeting its mission, the Committee has been integral in developing and implementing a watershed plan, Natural Resources Management Plan for the Fishkill Creek Watershed. The Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee has benefitted from the technical and organizational support of Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Dutchess County Environmental Management Council, who assisted them in identifying and conducting specific assessment approaches and restoration projects, as well as hosting a website for the organization - www.fishkillcreekwatershed.org

This example appears in Chapter 2 of the Watershed Plans Guidebook.

The Dutchess County Better Site Design Roundtable

By reviewing the development codes of the Towns of Wappinger and Clinton, the Dutchess County Environmental Management Council determined the extent to which Better Site Design principles could be applied in each community. Better Site Design principles aim to reduce impacts from traditional types of development and use innovative design techniques to maintain natural resources on a site. During the review process, the Dutchess County Environmental Management Council hosted a Better Site Design workshop and roundtable in April 2005 to discuss options that could be employed in the Hudson River Watershed. The results of the development codes review and the workshop have been used to kickoff a county-wide roundtable process to revise existing codes and ordinances that will promote environmentally friendly development.

This example appears in Chapter 5 of the Watershed Plans Guidebook.

Employing and Promoting Good Practices in Westchester County

Westchester County has implemented a number of watershed friendly programs over the last several years in an effort to meet water quality requirements and improve public awareness of water quality issues. A 2002 policy halted the use of pesticides on county lands in Westchester, and a public education campaign called the Grassroots Healthy Lawn Program encourages reducing pesticide use on private lands. In addition, storm drain stencils and markers were installed throughout the county to identify catch basins and notify people that they drain to important water resources, including drinking water supplies. An additional public education campaign called the Go Native Program promotes the use of native plants in private landscaping rather than non-native plants that require more water and nutrients. www.westchestergov.com/SectionIndex/envdetail.asp

This example appears in Chapter 6 of the Watershed Plans Guidebook.

 Monitoring Progress by Monitoring Fish Habitat 

Guidelines for Monitoring Fish Habitat in Wadeable Streams of the Catskill Mountain Region, NY, published by the US Geological Survey in 2003, grew out of the need to monitor the success of stream channel stabilization projects in Catskill Mountain streams. Stream channel erosion was causing sedimentation and degrading water quality in the downstream reservoirs that are the drinking water supply for New York City. By monitoring stream habitats, managers are able to evaluate how well stabilization projects reduce sedimentation and other impacts. The US Geological Survey, Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection worked together to develop, test, and publish an assessment methodology that monitors fish habitat suitability of a stream for one year prior to restoration and three years following restoration. The monitoring guidance document serves as a mechanism to evaluate the success of the restoration project and includes the methodology, a field equipment list, and monitoring forms.

This example appears in Chapter 6 of the Watershed Plans Guidebook.