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Public Input Sought On Mohawk River Watershed Management Plan

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A coalition of advocates for the Mohawk River has released a draft management plan that aims to help communities obtain funding to protect water quality and mitigate flooding. 

At a public forum Tuesday evening at Schenectady County Community College, about 100 concerned residents gathered to hear details of a draft Mohawk River Watershed Management Plan.

The plan is being prepared by the Mohawk River Watershed Coalition of Conservation Districts and the Mohawk River Watershed Advisory Committee.

The Coalition, formed in 2009, includes the 14 Soil & Water Conservation Districts from the counties along the Mohawk River valley, from the Adirondacks to the Catskills. The Committee includes representatives   the NY State Department of State, Department of Environmental Conservation, and several other groups.

David Mosher, chair of the Coalition, said the Management Plan addresses a wide variety of issues and recommends actions to protect the watershed not just from flooding.

“It’s a watershed-wide program that deals with nutrient management, it deals with sedimentation, it deals with stream bank erosion and so on,” said Mosher. “Obviously flooding is the forefront. You’re never going to stop flooding. What we look to do through practices that we do would be to help mitigate the impacts of that flooding.”

The Mohawk River Watershed occupies nearly 3,500 square miles and is home to more than 600,000 New Yorkers. Flooding along the Mohawk and Schoharie River in recent years has devastated homes and deposited garbage and debris along its banks.

The plan also looks to restore habitat, revitalize communities, promote agriculture, restore the ecological function of the river, and increase awareness with scientific data and highly detailed maps that track watershed boundaries, pollution levels, infrastructure, and other factors.

Linda Wagenet, of Cazenovia-based environmental consulting firm EcoLogic, said the hard data is intended to assist local governments get financial assistance.

“This is not for individuals, necessarily, but for communities and municipalities to be able to get funding, they are in a much stronger position if they have a watershed management plan behind them,” said Wagenet.

Individuals are invited to share their thoughts and concerns. At the forum, attendees shared their own experiences with flooding and the challenge of cleanup and recovery. Attendees also wondered how they could get the word out to their elected leaders.

Project Coordinator Win McIntyre said the public has been curious about calling attention to the Management Plan.

“This is the second meeting where that’s been brought up, with how that important that is. And that one of the roles of these Soil & Water Conservation Districts in each county is to take that message locally, because they know the folks the best. We’re going to really work hard on that, because that’s just key to this whole thing,” said McIntyre.

The plan  including recommendations and interactive mapping tools, is available at MohawkRiver.org.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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