Thursday, July 13, 2023

Road salt, conservation projects hot topics at Black River Watershed Conference

Rob Williams, St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management reviews eDNA applications for the early detection of invasive species.

CARTHAGE – Road salt and Conservation District projects were hot topics at The Black River Watershed Conference held at Zero Dock Street Restaurant in Carthage on June 14.  Just under 100 people attended the thirteenth annual event to discuss issues that face the Black River, and learn how to become better watershed stewards.

The Black River Watershed includes over sixty communities in Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, and Oneida counties. While each community’s character is unique and has its own diverse needs, landowners and visitors share the Black River and the desire to keep it, its tributaries, and its watershed healthy and vibrant.

The annual Black River Watershed Conference stems from the completion of the Black River Watershed Management Plan in 2010.  Organizers include the New York State Tug Hill Commission, the Lewis County Soil and Water Conservation District and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 6.

“It is the only regional forum that illustrates issues specifically on the Black River Watershed,” said Nichelle Swisher, Lewis County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager.  “There are no college or university forums held regarding the watershed and the river is studied on a limited basis.  Most research data that exists has been obtained by the NYS DEC.  This conference provides stakeholders with ongoing or completed research results, shares ideas on waterfront development projects and community resiliency, demonstrates implementation projects from local soil and water conservation districts that stabilize soil and protect water quality.  Stakeholders learn about their impact on the watershed and strategies to reduce their impact and protect water quality.”

Sujan Fernando of Clarkson University presents during the Emerging Contaminants Panel Discussion.

Master of Ceremonies Tom Boxberger of the Tug Hill Commission welcomed everyone to the event.  Jasmine James of RAMBOLL Engineering provided an update on the Black River Adaptive Management, highlighting data collection and monitoring for nutrient loading and gaps in data analysis such as stream monitoring locations.

Rob Williams, Invasive Species Program Director, spoke on how Environmental DNA (eDNA) is being used for invasive species early detection.  The Emerging Contaminants Panel included Paul Hare, Ramboll Engineering; Sujan Fernando, Clarkson University – CAARES; Kristine Wheeler, New York State Department of Health, who discussed the harmful effects of PFAS and PFOS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

The Lightening Round was a time for agencies to provide brief updates on their programs and services.  Payton Reese, Oneida County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) spoke about streambank stabilization projects; Rosalee Walters, Herkimer County SWCD gave an update on the ag plastics recycling program; Sarah Trick, Jefferson County SWCD highlighted the Storm Water, Carbon Awareness, and Reforestation Education for Students program; Caitlin Stewart, Hamilton County SWCD showed the Adirondack Waterfest video; Heidi Lehman, Village of Castorland showcased Friends of the Black River; Mickey Dietrich, NYS Tug Hill Commission presented the River Area Council of Governments, and Emily Fell, NYS DEC reviewed the Eastern Great Lakes Program.

Rob Williams, St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management reviews eDNA applications for the early detection of invasive species.

Road salt updates and perspectives were presented by Nichelle Swisher, Lewis County SWCD and Timothy Hunt, Lewis County Highway Department.  Dorian Di Cocco reviewed the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, and Madeline Silecchia and Colleen Bradley reviewed the Drinking Water Source Protection Program.

“This conference is meant to both inspire and inform,” said Jennifer Harvill, NYS Tug Hill Commission Community and Regional Projects Director.  “I was especially happy to learn about ways our SWCD’s are spreading positive messages to our young people about the importance of stewardship. It is a pleasure to be part of the team that brings this conference together!”

To receive updates about the 2024 Black River Watershed Conference, visit NEW YORK STATE – TUG HILL COMMISSION, call 315-785-2392, or email Jennifer Harvill at

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Caitlin Stewart manages the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District. The District's mission is to manage and promote the wise use of Natural Resources in Hamilton County. Caitlin will be sharing the District's conservation-focused services, programs, and events. She’s been a full time resident of Hamilton County since 2008 and is an avid hiker, skier, paddler, and biker. She is obsessed with adventuring with her dog Artemis.

3 Responses

  1. Worth Gretter says:

    Thanks to all of these people working to protect our natural resources!

  2. Joe Kozlina says:

    13 Years and still studying to see if road salt is harmful. 13 years and still using road salt. Shameful.

    • Rob says:

      Getting rid of road salt and using sand would provide a nice base on the roads for the snowmobiles during the winter

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