Bard freshman get introduced to the Saw Kill

The Saw Kill runs through the communities of Milan, Red Hook, Rhinebeck and Annandale-on-Hudson. It empties in to the South Tivoli Bays after a meandering last stretch through Bard College’s campus. For many students, the Saw Kill means the waterfall, or the student run cafe. Lesser known, is that the Saw Kill is where the college takes in its drinking water, and further downstream is where their treated waste water is released. Bard’s use of the Saw Kill and close presence make the institution an important stakeholder in the watershed.

Last week, 400 plus freshman arrived on campus for orientation. As part of their orientation, we wanted students to learn more about the watershed and community they are now calling home. We tabled at events and talked to students about their drinking water, what a watershed means, and how they can get engaged in their community.

This past Sunday, we took a group of freshman on a hike a long the Saw Kill. With Sarah Mount from the DEC, Bard science faculty, and Bard upperclassmen, we talked about the Saw Kill, the ecology of the area, the Bard experience, and the larger Hudson River watershed we are connected to. At the mouth of the Saw Kill we donned waders to kick net for benthic macroinvertebrates and seine for fish. We were lucky enough to find some cool critters like the Dobson Fly Larvae and Dragonfly larvae, some Killifish, along with our favourite american eel in its elver stage.

Students were excited to be out in the Saw Kill, and interested in furthering their engagement with the Saw Kill and their new community. We are so happy to welcome the Bard class of 2021 to the watershed!

 

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Community Meeting on Wednesday, August 23rd

Please join us for our next community meeting on Wednesday, August 23, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the historic Elmendorph Inn in Red Hook.

We’ll have two really valuable presentations at this meeting. Karen Schneller McDonald and Carolyn Klocker will be talking about connecting your drinking water to the watershed. How does the watershed affect the water from your well or the local water system? And how does what you do about your drinking water affect the watershed?

They’ll be followed by Brent Kovalchik, Deputy Mayor, Village of Red Hook, who will give us an update and take comments and questions on Phase 1 of the village sewer project.

We’ll wrap up the evening with community comments and questions.

For our September community meeting, we’ll be participating in a workshop, Protecting Drinking Water in the Saw Kill Watershed: A Regulatory and Policy Perspective, in conjunction with the Hudson Valley Regional Council (HVRC). This free event will be held on Monday, September 25, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Red Hook Community Center (59 Fisk Street).

We look forward to seeing you there!

Check out our data on Riverkeeper’s site

Every month, SKWC citizen scientists go out and collect samples from 14 different locations along the Saw Kill. They record observations and data such as temperature and salinity. The samples are then taken to the Bard Water Lab, where they are processed for parameters such as sewage indicating bacteria, nutrients, and turbidity.

But what happens to that data? We present lots of our findings at our monthly community meetings. And now, thanks to Riverkeeper, you can view our findings on Enterococcus counts online. Their interactive map shows our sampling locations, and data alongside environmental conditions such as rain events.

saw kill riverkeeper map

Entero what? Enterococcus is a bacteria found in the intestines of humans and other warm blooded animals. It’s called “fecal indicating” because of its presence in human sewage. Therefore, an abundance of enterococcus in the water can correlate with sewage contamination. The EPA uses enterococcus counts to regulate water safety. Riverkeeper shows these counts alongside rainfall data as rain events often trigger fecal contamination. Looking at the two side by side helps us understand whether enterococcus levels are weather related or due to other factors.

Take a look around the site! They have lots of interesting information on water quality, as well as data on surrounding watersheds. The map reminds us of our watershed’s connection to surrounding watersheds and communities. It’s exciting to see our separate data collections coming together to create a larger, more complex picture.

 

 

Electrofishing below the Annandale Dam

On Tuesday, two Saw Kill interns and a Bard student Office of Sustainability intern went electrofishing with the DEC. We donned our waders, with nets in hand, to look at what kind of fish diversity exists below the Annandale Dam.saw kill electrofish 1

The way electrofishing works is by a handheld probe in the water that delivers a small electrical current. This shocks the fish for about 5 seconds, allowing enough time for a net to scoop them up in to a bucket. The DEC is interested in looking at what kind of biodiversity exists in the Saw Kill, but were also particularly interested in the eel population. The dams and waterfalls along the Saw Kill make eel migration tough, but they still manage to make it, proved by the large eel we found close to the dam.

 

Along with the american eel, we found a mixture of native and non native fish such as a brown trout, white sucker, largemouth bass, cutlips, bluegill, rock bass, spiny cheak crawfish,redfin pickerals, black nosed dace, yellow bullhead, and tessellated darters. I had never seen most of the above mentioned fish before, and it was exciting to learn about them and see how diverse the Saw Kill is. Thanks to the DEC for including us in  a great afternoon!

 

Community walk along the Saw Kill

Last week we had an awesome walk along the portion of the Saw Kill that runs through Bard campus with ecologist Gretchen Stevens from Hudsonia. It was a beautiful summer night, and a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, and meet some new faces. It was wonderful to see families, students, folks from different Hudson Valley environmental groups, and community members from Red Hook and Milan all out together.

saw kill watershed community july monthly meeting 1

Our conversation, as we stopped at different points along the Saw Kill, focused on the ecology of the river and the much discussed micro-hydro project. Gretchen confirmed what we all know to be true, that our Saw Kill is a unique and special environment. It happens to be home to unique bird species such as the migrating Louisiana Waterthrush, and the Winter Wren. We also looked at rare plant species like the American Spikenard. We talked about the trout species, such as brown trout, that make their home in the Saw Kill. This ties into recent conversations on stream classification as the Saw Kill is designated class T for trout, as well as class B. And my favorite Hudson Estuary fish, the American Eel, got a special mention as we took a look at the eel bucket/ladder system on one of the existing dams.

saw kill watershed community july monthly meeting 2

Many questions on the feasibility of a micro-hydro project, and consequences of such a project or dam removal were discussed. A group, that presented to the SKWC in February, has been putting together information on the possibility of micro hydro on one of the old dams along the Saw Kill. For the minutes of that meeting see here. This is an ongoing community conversation that is addressing questions surrounding habitat, migration, eel accessibility, sediment loading, flow, etc. in order to understand the effects of such a project.

saw kill watershed community july monthly meeting 3

Along with all of the information gained, it was a wonderful opportunity to not just talk about the Saw Kill but experience the Saw Kill as a community.

We look forward to seeing everyone again at our next meeting, Wednesday, August 16th.

Summertime along the Saw Kill

Our water monitoring program is year round, and in full swing this summer. If you haven’t gotten the chance to get up close to the Saw Kill with fellow community volunteers to collect samples and record observations, this summer is a great chance!

summer saw kill watershed community sampling

We are lucky our watershed is located in the beautiful Hudson Valley. Volunteer snapshots show off what a beautiful waterway we have, and why we’re so determined to protect it. Get out in the sunshine and in to your water way by becoming a volunteer in the water monitoring program. Our next sampling day is Friday, August 11th and we would love to see you there!

summer saw kill watershed community sampling 3

For more information and questions, contact Tierney (SKWC intern) at tw4287@bard.edu.

summer saw kill watershed community sampling 2

Taking our community meeting to the Saw Kill

We hope everyone is enjoying the summer months and getting plenty of time to explore the watershed. The weather is too nice to ignore, so we are taking our monthly community meeting outside and to the Saw Kill!

saw kill watershed community skwc water sampling

Please join us this Wednesday, July 19th from 6:30-7:30pm. We will be walking along the portion of Saw Kill Creek that runs through Bard campus with Hudsonia naturalist Gretchen Stevens. This is an exciting opportunity to learn more about the ecology of the Saw Kill, take a look at one of the dams, and spend some time together outdoors as a community. Families are welcome!

If you would like more information, please email Tierney (SKWC intern) at tw4287@bard.edu.

Looking forward to seeing you there!