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Storm replanting gets share of grant

Schoharie River Center team to replace vegetation

Friday, February 8, 2013
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— Planting greenery to restore land denuded by Tropical Storm Irene is among projects sharing $50,000 in grant money from the state’s new Mohawk River Basin Program.

The money, announced Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, represents the first outlay for a focus on the Mohawk and its tributaries created in 2009.

Grants of up to $10,000 from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund will support projects by municipalities and organizations looking to fix damage, improve water quality and make it easier for people to take advantage of recreational opportunities in and around the Mohawk River.

The Burtonsville-based Schoharie River Center will receive $10,000 to expand the reach of its Environmental Studies Team, which engages youth in scientific research into water ecology. The team, which has seen more than 600 participants over its 12-year history, will be moving its stream monitoring program farther north, Director John McKeeby said.

Part of the funding will also support the group’s ongoing replanting along the Schoharie Creek.

Crews pulled tons of trees and debris from the shores of the Schoharie Creek following tropical storms Irene and Lee, and channel widening that accompanied the work led to much of the vegetation being stripped.

“When you have flooding events now or you have heavy rain events, without any vegetation to hold the soil you have a tremendous amount of sediment that begins to wash into the creek,” McKeeby said.

The Mohawk River Basin encompasses roughly 3,460 square miles including Schoharie County, which is getting a $10,000 grant to map out recreational opportunities in and around the Schoharie Creek, the Mohawk River’s biggest tributary.

Brian Fleury, a geographic information specialist at the county’s Planning and Development Department, said he’s meeting with sporting and conservation organizations to gather detailed locations of places people can have fun outdoors.

The work will yield a printed map and possibly an Online feature that will help people make the most of the outdoors.

Fleury said he’s been learning about more sites and outdoor destinations in Schoharie County than he realized existed.

“We’re reaching out to a lot of groups right now just to pull in as much information as we can,” he said. “Our hope is to make people more aware of the recreational opportunities that exist in the county. It’s our understanding there has never been comprehensive map of recreational opportunities.”

Sites with playgrounds and fishing access spots, hiking and other outdoor activities are among those that will land on the map, Fleury said.

The Mohawk River Basin Program was created with goals including fish conservation and preservation, water quality improvement and protection, flood hazard reduction, community revitalization and maintaining working landscapes by supporting good farming and land management practices.

McKeeby said he sees programs aimed at fixing damage as important as ones that bring people closer to the basin’s creeks and rivers.

“The more that people realize the wonderful value of having such waters near us, and being able to recreate and to be able to fish in it, boat in it, hike along it, the better quality of life we all have,” McKeeby said.

Other projects awarded grants:

• Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, $6,500, for Bintz Conservation Easement to protect about 120 acres of farmland and natural areas in the town of Glenville.

• Town of Colonie, $10,000, to connect the Mohawk Landings Park to the Colonie Bike Path and the Mohawk River.

• Town of Niskayuna, $10,000, for a feasibility study to gauge the viability of a community facility and boathouse near Aqueduct Park.

• Environmental Clearinghouse Inc., $3,500, to develop guide books for the Mohawk River bike/hike trail in Albany Schenectady and Montgomery counties.

 
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