Protecting Drinking Water in the Saw Kill Watershed: A Regulatory and Policy Perspective
Monday, September 25, 2017, 6:00 pm-8:30 pm
Red Hook Community Center, 59 Fisk St., Red Hook
Join us for a community meeting and discussion with a panel of experts to learn more about the Saw Kill Watershed as a drinking water source. Topics include:
- Why it’s important to protect water supplies throughout the watershed.
- How the community can respond to water supply contamination.
- How to use laws, policies, tools, and other resources available for protecting drinking water.
Bring your questions, concerns, and ideas! We will have plenty of time for discussion and responses to questions.
Refreshments will be provided.
This meeting is a Hudson River Regional Council event in collaboration with the Saw Kill Watershed Community.
This event is free, but registration is required. To register, please go to http://bit.ly/2gHVFzR.
It’s been a beautiful summer out on the Saw Kill. A huge thank you to all of the volunteers who have made it out on the hot and sunny days to collect samples, or give up an afternoon to work in the lab. Your work is hugely appreciated and much needed!
As summer time winds down, some old faces are returning. Like all star intern Chris (pictured below), who was travelling in Germany for the beginning of the summer. It’s awesome to have him back, and in between his senior project research and his job as a peer counselor at Bard, he’s been helping out in the lab and sampled the southern reach this past August run. Along with our joy at returning friends, it has been so wonderful to meet new volunteers, or new folks at our community meetings. Keep spreading the word!
The best of this summer has been seeing the multiple generations and groups of people coming together over a common interest. We have kids coming out to help sample, students bringing their parents out to see where they volunteer their time, samplers who have been doing this work for decades, all side by side. Karen’s blog post about the EPA’s review of the Clean Water Rule, and our upcoming watershed panel, remind us how important it is for everyone to be involved and active in our watershed. And how important it is for future generations. So reach out to your congress person, come sample with us, attend a meeting, talk to your neighbor! Get active in your watershed!
On August 23, the Town of Red Hook passed a local law to place a 12-month moratorium on large scale extraction of certain natural resources in the Town of Red Hook. The purpose is to allow time to evaluate the impacts of these activities on water; gravel/ soil; and timber.
“A moratorium is hereby imposed from the effective date of this local law for a period of twelve (12) months on extractive operations involving (i) collection of spring waters for sale or for other than on premises use; or any water withdrawal operations for sale or for other than on premises use (ii) the use of any land for the excavation, extraction or removal of sand, gravel, clay, stone, loam, humus or topsoil for sale or exchange or for use other than on the property from which the material is extracted where the proposed project results in transport off site of more than 100 cubic yards in a 12 month period; and (iii) timber harvesting, commercial forestry or commercial logging.”
The law allows current levels of extraction to continue during the 12 month period and provides a waiver process for businesses that can prove undue hardship. Check the Town’s website for upcoming posting of official full text at http://www.redhook.org/ReviewDocs.html#Other.
The Saw Kill Watershed Community spoke up in support of this moratorium because of the following concerns:
- Our water is a shared resource. All of us benefit from an adequate supply of clean drinking water. Water sustains human and ecosystem health and enhances recreation, property value, and quality of life.
- Watersheds cycle, filter, and store water. Watershed health depends on the condition of its streams, springs, wetlands, lakes, groundwater, and land. The network of small streams and wetlands throughout the watershed collectively reduce flooding and improve water quality. Large scale activities that remove water, soil, gravel, or trees can disrupt or change the watershed systems (above and below ground) that replenish, store, purify and convey water.
- A high portion of forest within the watershed can lower drinking water treatment costs and improve groundwater recharge. Forest cover along streams improves water quality, bank stability and habitat; stabilizes floodplains (reducing the impact of flooding and erosion which in turn affects water quality); and moderates water temperature (e.g. protecting trout habitat).
- Water withdrawal affects the movement of groundwater and the water available for nearby streams, wells, and wetlands.
- Our water is not automatically protected by existing federal and state regulations in a way that most benefits our local community. As local demand for water supply increases, and sources of pollution (including erosion and stormwater runoff) increase, local protection is necessary to ensure a high quality supply of water for the community and for future generations.
Protecting our community’s natural resources is necessary for a sustainable local economy.
This “time out” is necessary to collect information and carefully evaluate the potential impacts of activities that affect our water, soil, and trees.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Bob Schmidt shows off why the crawfish is called spiny cheaks.
Kate, Bard Office of Sustainability intern, is all smiles with her fish find