March 12, 2014
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Funding to Improve Flood and Environmental Protections Along Mohawk River Basin

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced more than $640,000 in support for priority projects to help communities along the Mohawk River increase resiliency to better cope with future flood events, while also protecting water quality and environmental sustainability. The grants, provided through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) are administered under the State Department of Environmental Conservations (DEC) Mohawk River Basin Program. The projects reflect high priority initiatives within the Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda goals.

 

Extreme and frequent weather events have forced us to reimagine New York for a new reality. That is why the State has prioritized a strategy to transform New Yorks infrastructure, transportation networks, energy supply, emergency management, and coastal protection plans, said Governor Cuomo. The funding announced today will help the Mohawk River communities increase resiliency and better prepare for future weather disasters, taking essential steps toward building back better than before.

 

By implementing the Action Agenda of Governor Cuomos Mighty Waters cabinet-level work group, New York State and local communities are promoting environmental sustainability and helping to reduce the hazards of flooding in the Mohawk River Basin, said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. These projects will help Mohawk River Basin communities better understand the river system and be more prepared to deal with flooding events within the basin.

 

DEC recently initiated the Mohawk River Basin Program and its associated action agenda as a focused effort to conserve, preserve, and restore the environmental quality of the Mohawk River and its watershed, while helping to manage the resources of the region for a sustainable future. A summary of the Programs EPF projects is listed below.

 

Projects Related to Reducing Flood Risks and Improving Flood Resiliency:

 

As part of Governor Cuomos strategy to reimagine New York for the new reality of extreme weather, these projects advance the Mohawk River Basin Programs goal to reduce flood-hazard risks and enhance flood resiliency with tools to help communities prepare for climate change and protect important cultural, recreational, economic and environmental assets.

 

Post-flood Emergency Stream Training ($71,800) The Schoharie County Soil and Water Conservation District will perform ten post-flood emergency stream intervention training workshops throughout the basin. The trainings will provide technical, educational and organizational support to municipalities and other entities to conduct post-flood responses in an environmentally sensitive manner. The project will be implemented through a partnership with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

 

Prattsville Flood Inundation Mapping ($47,000) The USGS New York Water Science Center will conduct this project to help create a library of flood-inundation maps at incremental stream stages on the Schoharie Creek in Prattsville, Greene County. The maps will provide valuable information to emergency responders to help assess the severity of floods and assist in determining emergency flood announcements and evacuations. The maps also will identify specific areas where residents are likely to require emergency assistance during a flood. USGS will provide an additional $9,400 toward the total project cost of $56,400.

 

Ice Jam Monitoring at Schenectady ($34,250) The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Water Science Center in Troy will: install and operate real-time web camera with night-vision capability to monitor ice conditions between Lock 8 in Rotterdam and Freemans Bridge in Schenectady, both in Schenectady County; measure and deliver real-time data of water surface elevation and ice jam residuals at Lock 8; and develop an ice jam model for Lock 8. The web camera project is a collaboration between DEC, USGS, the New York Power Authority, Brookfield Renewable Power and Union College and will help emergency managers monitor the river so they can provide an early warning to the public about potential flood risks. Schenectady is particularly vulnerable to ice-jam related flooding. It is estimated that 80 percent of historic Mohawk River floods in Schenectady have been associated with winter snowmelt and associated ice jams. To access the real-time monitoring data and ice jam related conditions in the Mohawk River see: http://ny.water.usgs.gov/flood/MohawkIce/index.html .

 

Projects related to water quality protection and conservation:

 

These projects advance the Mohawk River Basin Programs goal of protecting and improving water quality in the Mohawk River watershed by providing information to local communities to protect the public from health hazards, conserve drinking water supplies and protect aquatic communities and natural processes.

 

Expansion of the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System to the Mohawk River ($50,000) DECs ambient water quality monitoring program will install a water quality monitoring station in the Mohawk River at Schenectady between the Freemans Bridge Road crossing and Route 146 at Rexford to monitor dissolved oxygen, turbidity, temperature, pH and specific conductance. DEC chose this location to target possible wastewater inputs in the Schenectady reach of the Mohawk River. The project will be implemented through a partnership with the Capital Region Maritime Center.

 

Community-based Environmental Education Network ($40,000) - This project will be implemented through a partnership with the Schoharie River Center for the expansion of its water quality monitoring efforts of its volunteer Environmental Study Teams. These teams will train middle and high school students in the science of water quality monitoring and watershed analysis. Participants will collaborate with the DECs WAVE volunteer water quality monitoring program for the collection of water chemistry data from ten sites in the Mohawk basin.

 

Sediment Monitoring at Fonda, Montgomery County ($37,400) - The USGS New York Water Science Center will upgrade a stream gauge and its operation and maintenance for three years. The state Canal Corporations efforts to establish a flood alert system for the Mohawk River Basin includes the construction of numerous stream gauges, including the one in Fonda. This location is ideal for the placement of a sediment monitoring station because it will capture the sediment discharge from the main stem of the Mohawk River and its watershed upstream of the Schoharie River.

 

Fish and wildlife related projects:

 

These projects will advance the Mohawk River Basin Programs goal of conserving and protecting fish, wildlife and their habitats in the Mohawk River watershed while communicating to the public about their value so that people can enjoy the unique natural character of the watershed and its living ecosystem.

 

Status and Trends for Fish Assemblages (gathering) in the Main stem of the Mohawk River ($147,730) The USGS New York Water Science Center will document the status of fish assemblages, which includes species composition, relative abundances and fish distributions. In addition, the project will assess changes that have occurred since historical surveys of the early 1990s, evaluate potential causes and identify management practices that could lessen anticipated effects of invasive species, climate change and other factors that could impact Mohawk River basin fish. This project will be implemented through a partnership with the USGS, which will contribute $245,541 to the project.

 

Status of Blueback Herring ($115,000) The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) will study the linkage between the Mohawk River, the Hudson River and the ocean for blueback herring populations. The study will assess the importance of the Mohawk River nursery relative to the Hudson River estuary, as well as examine the provenance of blueback herring spawners in the Mohawk River. SUNY ESF will provide $26,954 toward this project.

 

Mohawk River Macroinvertebrate - Fish Interactions ($81,072) SUNY ESF will work with the USGS to survey the status and trends for fish assemblages in the main stem of the Mohawk River and their relation to macroinvertebrates. It will also identify environmental factors impacting biological communities and identify trends in diversity and stream conditions.

 

Schoharie Watershed Conservation Plan ($50,000) -- The Nature Conservancy will conduct a fine-scale analysis of the connectivity between uplands and wetlands to determine how distance and barriers between small patches of natural areas affect the sustainability of wildlife in the Schoharie Watershed. Findings will be used to identify riparian restoration areas that would support stream biodiversity, restoration of riparian zones, and repopulation of native species.

 

Ward O. Freeman, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey-New York Water Science Center, said, The Governors support in addressing the Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda will go a long way towards improved information that resource managers, emergency responders, and the public can use. The USGS is excited about working with the DEC and other agencies on this effort. The knowledge and information gained from these studies will help protect the Mohawk River and its residents into the future.

 

George Schuler, Director of Conservation Science & Practice at The Nature Conservancy, said, We applaud Governor Cuomos commitment for the Mohawk River Basin Agenda. By making EPF funds available in support of the agenda, the Governor demonstrates his leadership in securing the profound relationship between New Yorks economies, communities and natural resources. The Nature Conservancy looks forward to working with DEC and an array of partners to establish the role issues such as landscape connectivity play in the resilience of human and natural systems in the face of a changing climate.

 

Neil H. Ringler, Vice Provost for Research at SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, said, The Mohawk River is vital to New York, in its diversity of biota and habitats, as well as to the regional economy. This collaborative project between SUNY-ESF and USGS will utilize new approaches to biological monitoring that help us understand how fishes and invertebrates respond to environmental factors, such as climate change and flood events. The integrated results based on fishes and invertebrates will assist in the long-term sustainability and management of aquatic resources

 

$75,000 Available for Mini-Grants

 

In addition to these projects, the Mohawk River Basin Program will administer another round of Mohawk River Basin mini-grants totaling $75,000. This is an increase of $25,000 from last years mini-grants total. Grants of up to $10,000 are available to municipalities and not-for-profit corporations to implement projects within one year that help to further the Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda.(http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/58571.html ).

 

The applications period for these grants will begin in the next few weeks. Applicants will need to register through the new, statewide Grants Gateway, a web-based grants management system that can be used to browse all state agency grants available and anticipated grant opportunities. Not-for-profit applicants are required to pre-qualify through the gateway for all grants opportunities. For additional information or to register for the program, visit the New York State Grants Reform website at www.grantsreform.ny.gov . To browse grants, visit https://grantsgateway.ny.gov/IntelliGrants_NYSGG/module/nysgg/goportal.aspx .

 

Examples of eligible projects that could be funded through the mini-grants include: the purchase of floating docks to expand river access; publication of training manuals; purchase of supplies and equipment for citizen stewardship; distribution of maps, exhibits, plans, publications or interpretive signage; purchase of equipment to facilitate citizen tree planting projects; and land conservation assistance.

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