Scientists, students and government officials will gather in Schenectady on Friday for what’s expected to be the biggest Mohawk Watershed Symposium in the five-year history of the annual meetings.
More than 40 presentations on research are planned for the day at Union College, many covering elements of a topic well-known to residents in and around the Mohawk Valley — flooding.
Created in the wake of floods that tore through the Mohawk Valley in 2006, Union College’s Geology Department sought to “facilitate and foster conversations that drive positive change in the watershed,” according to a news release from Union College Geology Professor John Garver.
The first symposium drew a wide range of perspectives together to discuss the Mohawk, the state’s second-largest river, a broader focus on the waterway’s problems that hadn’t existed before.
Five years and several floods later, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a coalition of Soil and Water Conservation districts and others are pouring time and money into studies and improvement projects aimed at embracing the river system many believed had been orphaned.
“The Mohawk watershed is finally getting the attention it deserves. Recent flooding, new restoration projects, and the recognition that we have a pretty special watershed has really drawn people together and focused efforts on watershed issues,” Garver said.
Friday’s forum will feature discussion from government officials including U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and keynote speaker Rebecca Wodder, senior adviser to the U.S. secretary of the interior.
Tonko will share thoughts about climate change, the challenge it represents for the region and the need for an integrated, regional approach to address it.
Wodder will speak about the new National Blueways System.
Established last year by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the National Blueways System is aimed at helping to coordinate local, state and federal waterway restoration efforts.
Scientists and local school students and community groups are sharing numerous studies and outlining research for the 2013 Mohawk Watershed Symposium.
Projects to be outlined during Friday’s event include:
u SUNY-Cobleskill studied tributaries leading to the Schoharie Creek before and after tropical storms Irene and Lee and found major impact to trout populations.
u Schenectady school students, working with the Schoharie River Center, explored post-flooding water quality along the Schoharie Creek and found lingering impacts. The youths then planted 3,000 trees to help restore water quality and fish habitat.
u Donald T. Rodbell of the Union College Geology Department will outlines research that takes some of the mystery out of the massive 2011 flooding. Using core samples taken from Collins Lake in Scotia, Rodbell discovered flooding strong enough to bring red-colored Catskills silt all the way to Scotia has taken place repeatedly over the past 1,000 years.
The research and information on the symposium is available at http://minerva.union.edu/garverj/mws/2013/symposium.html.