Schenectady County

Water quality, ice jams to take spotlight at conference

11th Annual Mohawk Watershed Symposium takes place at Union College on Friday
Smaller chunks of ice build up in the Mohawk River by Schenectady's historic Stockade Neighborhood on Feb. 10.
Smaller chunks of ice build up in the Mohawk River by Schenectady's historic Stockade Neighborhood on Feb. 10.

SCHENECTADY — Schenectady is all too familiar with ice jams, natural blockades whose formation presents flood risks to riverside communities.

Residents are invited to learn more about how the structures form and how to address them at a conference Friday.

The 11th Annual Mohawk Watershed Symposium at Union College is front-loaded with flood-related sessions.

The annual conference, initially designed to bring Mohawk River watershed stakeholders together, will open with a discussion highlighting the ice jam that formed on the river this winter. 

A second morning session will focus on improving community resiliency and developing and assessing ice jam and flood mitigation measures along the waterway. 

Also on deck: A project manager with River Street Planning & Development will deliver a feasibility analysis of flood mitigation alternatives designed to protect Schenectady’s flood-prone Stockade neighborhood.

Advance registration for the day-long conference at Union College’s College Park is now open and begins on-site at 7:55 a.m. 

“What people should take away from this is that ice jamming matters,” said John Garver, co-chair of the Mohawk Watershed Symposium. “It’s a really big part of understanding flooding.”


Flooding is one major theme of the annual event organized by Union College’s Geology Department.

Another is water quality, which remains a key focus in the watershed, said Garver, a Union College geologist.

The Mohawk River is one of the largest sources of drinking water in the Capital Region, providing water to nearly 100,000 people. 

Environmental group Riverkeeper will present insights from a community water quality monitoring project at the conference.

“All along the river, there are communities trying to engage with the river,” Garver said, citing recreational walkway projects spearheaded by localities as well as the Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady. 

Regardless of their size or scope, each requires clean water to be successful. 

Contamination and discharge from municipal sewer systems continues to be a problem basin-wide, Garver said, whether in Niskayuna or Utica.

The daylong event was first hatched in the late 2000s to bring together stakeholders after floods wreaked havoc on the Mohawk Valley.

“The conference evolved into a gathering place for everyone interested in water quality and things associated with the watershed,” Garver said.

This year’s keystone speaker is U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, a freshman lawmaker who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, whose purview includes water infrastructure.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, an early supporter of the symposium, will also be a guest at the reception, Garver said.


11th Annual Mohawk Watershed Symposium at Union College
Friday, March 22 at College Park 
Registration can be done online [] or on-site beginning at 7:55 a.m.
For the full schedule and event information, visit

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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