The public is encouraged to attend and provide comment on the final draft of the Ausable River Watershed Management Plan at an open house on Wednesday, April 27th from 5:30 pm to 7 pm at the Town of Jay Offices at 11 School Lane in Au Sable Forks.
Over five years, people in the Ausable watershed and beyond came together to develop the Ausable River Watershed Management Plan, a snapshot of ecological and community challenges in the Ausable River watershed and a vision for planning that hopes to include community interests and needs.
The final draft version of the plan is available on the website of the Ausable River Association. The open house will provide attendees an opportunity to review the presentation of key findings, ask questions of contributors and advisory committee members, and provide input through comments made during the open house or the comment period that runs through mid-May 2016.
The Ausable River is one of 14 major rivers that have their sources in the Adirondacks, and the longest of the three that drain into Lake Champlain. Its watershed covers 512 square miles and includes 94 miles of river channel, fed by more than 70 streams. Seven towns, eight hamlets, and one incorporated village lie within the watershed, which covers portions of two counties.
The watershed contains ecologically rich environments and is home to over 20,000 people. Upstream, the Ausable’s two branches flow through protected New York State Forest Preserve lands, but protections diminish heading downstream. The rivers lower reaches are less protected and water quality tests show increasing levels of chloride from winter road deicing, phosphorus from septic system discharges, and other pollutants.
Miles of river channel are incised with deeply eroded banks, leading to increased sediment pollution, which can smother delicate aquatic ecosystems and damage transportation infrastructure. Heavy rain events along the Ausable have quickly overwhelmed roadways, bridges and culverts, leading to flooding, and the existing infrastructure – bridges, culverts, and reinforced riverbanks – often exacerbates these problems by trapping sediment the river can no longer move.
Cataloging and understanding these challenges to the river’s ecological health and its ability to maintain itself and support healthy human communities are key goals of this watershed management plan. The Ausable River plan covers a variety of topics, including geologic and cultural history; demographics, land use, and maintenance of infrastructure; current measures of water quality and measures of stream condition; municipal regulatory frameworks; and more.
Development and implementation of the plan was made possible through an Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant from the NYS Department of State. The Ausable River Association, a 501c3 non-profit watershed organization based in Wilmington, NY, served as grant and project manager.
Photo of Ausable River Provided