The Ausable River Association’s second annual Ride for the River is happening this weekend on Sunday, July 21. Three new Ride routes designed by Keene Valley bike shop LeepOff Cycles, music by Darryl Stout and Eric Klotzko, and a Hornbeck Boats canoe raffle are planned. This year’s Ride is in memory of Carol Rupprecht, a dedicated steward of the Ausable River.
The Ride for the River celebrates the scenic and recreational resources of the Ausable River as well as the communities and businesses that make the Ausable Valley a great place to live, work and play. Cyclists of all ages and skill levels can register for one of three scenic routes alongside the Ausable River and across its hills and valleys. » Continue Reading.
The Ausable River Association (AsRA) will hold its second Ride for the River bike ride and invites residents and visitors to join in on Sunday, July 21. The Ride for the River celebrates the scenic and recreational resources of the Ausable River as well as the communities and businesses of the Ausable Valley. Cyclists of all ages and skill level can register for one of three scenic routes alongside the Ausable River and across its hills and valleys.
Following the Ride, enjoy a picnic and live music with fellow riders as well as friends and family at Jay Covered Bridge in Jay, NY. All proceeds of the Ride benefit the Ausable River Association’s work to protect and restore the valued resources of the Ausable River for their benefit to the ecosystem and human communities. This year’s ride is in memory of Carol Rupprecht, a dedicated steward of the Ausable River. » Continue Reading.
The fact that the opening day of trout season in New York coincides with April Fool’s Day does not seem to be a coincidence to many people in the Adirondacks. To any rational human, the thought of standing for hours along a partially frozen stream, fending off hypothermia and frostbite only to wait for the slightest tug on a monofilament line epitomizes foolishness. However, for many avid sportsmen, April 1st is just as sacred as the opening of big game season and regardless of how miserable the weather can be, there is a need to get out and “wet-a-line” in a favored fishing spot on this day.
The cold start to spring this year has kept ice along the shores of many streams and brooks, and in some slower moving waterways, there still exists a solid covering of ice for long stretches. Fishing for trout under these harsh conditions is an extreme challenge, yet experienced anglers are often able to snag enough brookies or browns to make a meal. » Continue Reading.
An examination of a bull moose shot by state officials in the Ausable River last September found no diseases or ailments to explain its strange behavior, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“We’re not sure what was wrong with it, but something was,” DEC spokesman David Winchell told the Adirondack Almanack. » Continue Reading.
The Open Space Institute has announced that a private landowner has donated a conservation easement that will protect a nearly 1,400-acre forest in the northeast corner of the Adirondack Park. The property borders the western shore of Butternut Pond and is bisected by several brooks, most of which feed into Auger Lake, which in turn empties into the Ausable River and eventually into Lake Champlain.
The parcel, a largely wooded Essex County tract owned by the Johanson family, buffers state lands, including Pokamoonshine Mountain, and sits within the viewshed of the historic firetower on the summit of Pokamoonshine, a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers and cross-country skiers. » Continue Reading.
State officials felt they had no choice but to kill an injured moose that had been hanging out in the Ausable River in Wilmington Notch, according to David Winchell, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
“The primary factor was its deteriorating condition,” Winchell said this morning. “It was not able to move out of there on its own, and the likely outcome would have been its death anyway.”
The bull moose showed up last weekend in a steep ravine on the West Branch of the Ausable. Over the next several days, motorists would stop to gawk at the animal, creating a traffic hazard along the narrow Route 86 corridor. On Saturday, a DEC wildlife technician shot the moose with a paintball gun to try to get it to leave. Although favoring its left leg, the moose was able to move into nearby woods. At the time, DEC thought the animal stood a good chance of recovery. » Continue Reading.
The Ausable River Association will host a Ride for the River bike ride on Sunday, September 16. The event will include a 37-mile scenic bike ride following the river from headwaters to lake designed to raise awareness of issues affecting the Ausable River’s vital natural resources and raise funds for the Ausable River Association (AsRA), a local organization that stewards the watershed’s resources and connects communities around protection of the river.
Ride for the River will start near the source of the Ausable East Branch by the Ausable Club and follow the gentle path of the river valley to conclude with a picnic on the Main Stem at the famous Ausable Chasm. For the more adventurous, a ride back to start will accomplish a total of 74 miles. The Ride has an intermediate grade along the river and is entirely on state roads, the majority of which have wide shoulders. A portion of this route is used in the Ironman Lake Placid Triathlon. » Continue Reading.
This Thursday, August 16 beginning at 1:30 PM there will be a public tour of the river restoration project now taking place along the East Branch of the Ausable River in Keene Valley.
The tour will be at Rivermede Farm. For more information, contact Dave Reckahn of the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District, 518-962-8225, firstname.lastname@example.org, Corrie Miller at the Ausable River Association, email@example.com or Dan Plumley at Adirondack Wild’s regional office in Keene, firstname.lastname@example.org. » Continue Reading.
Located near Au Sable Chasm, the Au Sable Bridge in itself is a child’s playground. After coming out of the woods from a hike we passed through Clinton County via Route 9 when both my children yelled for us to stop the car.
The water rushing over the falls is breathtaking so we pull over at the nearby parking area and go for a stroll. I watch my kids run across with snowball in hand to toss over the side.
I am leery of heights, to put it mildly. I can climb mountains and sit on the edge of a cliff but my brain is never at ease on a manmade object of any significant height. This highway bridge that spans the gorge dates from 1934 so my children are quick to reassure me of their safety. (What about me?)
We find out this isn’t the first bridge near this spot. The earliest bridge was built in 1793 of logs and located about one mile downstream. Various other wooded bridges were built but consumed by flooding or rotted from the mist from the falls. In 1890 a one-lane iron bridge was erected and can still be seen upstream from the 1934 stone bridge.
The current bridge’s most distinguishing features are the 212’ steel arch span and the concrete arches faced in local granite and sandstone. My children’s eyes start glazing over with the history lesson. They always amaze me with their ability to retain information while acting disinterested only to parrot back information later to their friends.
For now they just want to watch snowballs drop and disappear into the rushing waters of the Au Sable River. According to the Au Sable Chasm website the Route 9 bridge was the main route that connected the northern communities such as Plattsburgh and Montreal to the southern sectors like Albany and New York City before in the Interstate was built in the mid 60s. It is said that remnants of the original railroad bed foundation is underneath the existing bridge but I wasn’t about to peer over the side to look for it.
Burlington College students, under the direction of their instructor, Adirondack Almanack editor John Warren, will conduct Oral History interviews to record the Tropical Storm Irene stories of Jay and Keene residents on Saturday, December 3rd, at the Keene Community Center, (8 Church Street, in Keene), between 10 and 4 pm. The public is invited to share their stories; the resulting oral histories will be added to the collections of the Adirondack Museum. Participants can schedule a time on December 3, or walk-in anytime between 10 am and 4 pm. It will only be necessary to spend about 15-20 mins at the Community Center where participants will be asked a number of questions about their experiences with Irene and will be provided an opportunity to tell the stories they think are important to remember about the events of this past late-summer.
To schedule your participation contact John Warren via e-mail at email@example.com or call (518) 956-3830. The public is invited. Walk-ins are welcome.
One of the more amazing statistics to emerge from Tropical Storm Irene was that the East Branch of the Ausable crested at 18.43 feet in Ausable Forks—three feet higher than the previous record and more than eleven feet above flood stage. The river’s flow peaked at fifty thousand cubic feet per second, a hundred times greater than normal.
Just a few months after the record storm, the U.S. Geological Survey is warning that it will be forced to discontinue most of the streamgages in the Lake Champlain basin on March 1 unless funding can be found to keep them going.
Throughout New York State, the USGS plans to discontinue thirty-one gages, including nine in or near the Adirondack Park. (The USGS uses the spelling “gages” rather than “gauges.”)
The gage that measured the record crest on the East Branch of the Ausable is not on the chopping block, not yet anyway. However, one nearby that is at risk has been in operation for more than eighty years, longer than any of other gages scheduled to be discontinued.
“We’ve got eighty-two years of records at this site. It is important for determining how flows are changing over time,” said Ward Freeman, director of the USGS New York Water Science Center in Troy. The center’s website contains real-time data from rivers throughout the state.
Streamgages measure the height and flow of rivers. Data are used to predict floods, calculate nutrient pollution, assess conditions for paddling, and determine when it’s appropriate to put lampricide in tributaries of Lake Champlain.
John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council, warned that without stream data, riverside communities will find it more difficult to protect themselves. “We won’t know what the changes in a river’s height and volume are, and as a result we can’t plan for flooding events,” he said.
In the past, many gages were funded through congressional earmarks, but lawmakers eliminated the earmarks a few years ago to save money, Freeman said. He added that the USGS needs $134,000 to keep the nine North Country gauges operational. (Each gage costs about $15,000 a year to operate and maintain.)
Eight of the gages are on rivers that feed Lake Champlain. Besides the Ausable, they are the Great Chazy, Little Ausable, Salmon, Boquet, Mettawee, and Putnam Creek. The ninth is on a narrow part of Lake Champlain itself near Whitehall.
Gages on another dozen rivers in Vermont that feed Lake Champlain also are scheduled to be shut down. Four others were discontinued in October.
This year, USGS was able to keep the gages on Lake Champlain tributaries running only after obtaining financial assistance from the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Freeman said he hopes the Lake Champlain organization and other interested parties can come up with money again.
“We’re going to do all we can to save these gages,” Freeman said.
Eric Howe, a technical coordinator for the basin program, said the non-profit organization will do everything it can to keep the gages operational, but it’s too early to tell if the group will have enough funds. Last year it spent about $150,000 to keep the gages running.
“The gages were extremely important during Tropical Storm Irene,” Howe said. “They helped us see what the tributaries were doing in the flooding.”
Thanks to a gage on the Winooski River, he said, farmers were able to round up volunteers to harvest crops in advance of floods.
Freeman is asking those willing to contribute funding for the gages to call him or Rob Breault at 518-285-5658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read the Adirondack Explorer’s comprehensive coverage of Tropical Storm Irene.
Photo by Ken Aaron: a high-water line near Ausable Forks.
How much rain fell during Tropical Storm Irene? Seems like an easy question, but it’s not.
The National Weather Service relies on volunteers to collect rainfall, and given the variance in rainfall and the finite number of volunteers, there are bound to be gaps in the data record.
For the current issue of the Adirondack Explorer, Nancy Bernstein created a rainfall map based on the Weather Service’s own maps. It shows that more than seven inches of rain fell in Keene, Jay, and Au Sable Forks. But how much more? The Explorer’s publisher, Tom Woodman, measured eleven inches at his home in Keene. » Continue Reading.
Landowners and volunteers are being sought to participate in planting trees along river and stream corridors in the Ausable River Valley on Friday, October 14. The tree planting will be part of an event to kickoff a new program to restore and protect river and stream corridors in the Lake Champlain watershed by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Landowners with property along the Ausable River, either of its branches or any their tributaries that need trees along the river and stream banks can receive free trees from the DEC Saratoga Tree nursery planted by volunteers. The trees will shore up eroded stream banks, protect property from flood damage and improve wildlife habitat. Volunteers are being sought to join federal, state and local officials in planting trees along stream and river banks. Volunteers will meet at Marcy Field along Route 73 in the Town of Keene at 10 am on October 14. Refreshments will be available at that time. After hearing about the new program and receiving encouragement and instruction from officials, volunteers will be assigned to teams and plant trees under the instruction of a team captain. DEC and others will be providing transportation for volunteers and the trees.
The tree planting will wrap up by 4 pm, or when all trees or sites have been planted. Volunteers do not have to stay until end, they can plant for as much time as they desire. Volunteers are asked to dress properly for the being outside and the weather conditions for that day as the event will take place rain or shine. Sturdy hiking shoes or boots will be needed. Volunteers should also bring the following items:
* Work gloves; * Shovel (if possible, there will be some shovels available ); * Water bottle; * Snacks (if desired); and * Lunch (if you plan to work into the afternoon).
Landowners and volunteers are encouraged to contact their local town office or the DEC (897-1291) before close of business Thursday, October 13, if they plan to participate. In the Town of Keene contact Supervisor Bill Ferebee at 576-4444, and in the Town of Jay contact Supervisor Randy Douglas at 647-2204.
The Lake Champlain conservation projects are part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative and these conservation projects are receiving $1.3 million dollars. On October, 12 the Obama Administration is releasing a report which details how AGO is opening up access to lands and waters, restoring critical landscapes, and supporting thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. The report outlines combined conservation and recreation successes, including gains in youth employment, new trail designations, the creation of urban campgrounds, and historic investments in large landscapes from Lake Champlain to the Florida Everglades.
Photo: A recent Ausable River tree planting volunteer effort (Courtesy Ausable River Association).
Carl Schwartz, US Fish and Wildlife Service and John Braico, NYS Trout Unlimited will lead a walk of the Ausable River on October 24 focused on rebuilding and repairing streams effected by flooding. Funds recently secured by the Ausable River Association (AsRA) for restoring tributaries damaged during Irene flooding are being considered for allocation.
Both Schwartz and Braico have worked extensively throughout New York to repair rivers and restore aquatic habitat. Schwartz works actively on river restoration projects and operates an excavator to build natural channels. The Ausable River Association and the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District are inviting and encouraging Citizens, Town Council members, Town DPWs, County DPW, DOT, DEC, and NonGovernmental Organizations to attend.
Date: October 24, 10 AM; Meet at the mouth of John’s Brook at the Rt. 73 bridge in Keene Valley; 2 PM Meet at the Gazebo in Ausable Forks.
For more information, contact the Ausable River Association.
“It is unfortunate that dredging has proceeded without any guidance from river experts who could provide natural stream dimensions based on a rapid assessment of natural bankfull, pool depth and riffle spacing. Measurements that could be done in a few hours and eliminate years of lost habitat,” stated Carol Treadwell, Executive Director of the Ausable River Association (ARA).
Natural stream dimensions? Bankfull? Pool depth? Riffle spacing? What is this, a how-to manual? A certain amount of assembly required? Or a level of river awareness and fluency that any floodplain community had better strive for? It is understandable why the small streams and rivers in this heavily damaged region of the Adirondacks (twice this year) may be viewed as marauding aliens and enemies which require a serious “talking to” by backhoe. The human and community impacts of the flood are enormous and gut wrenching.
Yet, post World War Two we keep building in floodplains, whether we know we are or not. A favored textbook reads: “The average annual flood damage nationwide… has continued to increase… The use of flood-prone land continues to rise faster than the application of measures to reduce flood damages. This continues to be one of the foremost challenges to land planners – finding ways to control the use of flood-prone areas, and ways of requiring those who seek the advantages of use of floodable areas to assume a fair proportion of the financial risk involved in such use” (Water in Environmental Planning, by Thomas Dunne and Luna Leopold, 1978).
Carol’s quote was submitted for a news release issued this week by a coalition of concerned organizations and individuals who live in these communities, along with a letter to Governor Cuomo seeking an end to floodplain management by bulldozer, and a meeting to assess how best to respond to the altered nature of these waterways in ways that are mindful of people, property, stream health, aesthetics and tourism on which so many of these towns and Essex County depend.
Carol denotes an apparent lack of “river experts” and related oversight of the heavy earth moving equipment moving about our region’s streams during the Governor’s month-long emergency authorization. The Ausable River Association has spent years studying the Ausable. Similarly, the Boquet River Association on the Boquet. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency know something about the behavior and morphology of rivers and floodplains. NYS DOT has environmental experts who know how to manage highway rights of way without taking a proverbial two by four to the environment. So, where are they? It was good to read that the Essex County Board of Supervisors is calling on these experts to help them assess and, if necessary, adjust the in-stream work as may be necessary. Governor Cuomo should have had his environmental experts in the field overseeing any stream work a month ago.
Yet, our state agency experts and field managers at DEC, APA, DOT still seem unable to respond in a coordinated, effective fashion, despite the fact that the Emergency Authorization issued by NYS DEC on that fateful Sunday, August 29 states: “This Authorization hereby allows emergency work to occur in navigable waters, streams and wetlands regulated under Environmental Conservation Law Article 15 and Article 24. The work hereby allowed must be immediately necessary to address an imminent threat to life, health, property, the general welfare and natural resources. All work carried out under this Authorization must be conducted in a minimally invasive manner, consistent with the goals of the restoration work. Non‐critical work is not allowed by this Authorization. All work must be undertaken in compliance with the conditions below.”
The emergency authorization and all conditions for working in the rivers is found at the DEC website. Based on what Dan Plumley of Adirondack Wild has observed, many of these conditions are being violated every day, but this assumes that the equipment operators understand the conditions, and that DEC is on-site to explain them, which it appears not to be.
There is probably a strong difference of opinion whether the work to date has been “minimally invasive” and necessary to address imminent threat. At the same time, the workers in the streams and their supervisors are doing all they can with the information and resources at hand. Which gets me back to Carol Treadwell’s quote: “natural stream dimensions based on a rapid assessment of natural bankfull, pool depth and riffle spacing. Measurements that could be done in a few hours and eliminate years of lost habitat.”
What is she talking about? I return to and quote from Dunne and Leopold’s Water in Environmental Planning (1978). Rivers construct their own floodplains, laterally migrate, and deposit lots of sediment in the process. Over a very long process of movement the river occupies each and every position on the flat valley floor, with the river moving laterally by erosion on one bank and deposition on the other. That is the meander that rivers want to achieve as their way of expending energy most efficiently. In fact, really straight stretches of river (absent human channelization) are rare “and seldom does one see a straight reach of length exceeding 10 channel widths.”
Yet, the river does not construct a channel large enough to accommodate flood stages. The bankfull stage referred to by Carol “corresponds to the river discharge at which channel maintenance is most effective, that is the discharge at which moving sediment, forming or removing bars, forming or changing bends and meanders, and generally doing work that results in the average morphologic characteristics of (river) channels.”
The authors Dunne and Leopold continue: “It is human encroachment on the floodplains of rivers that accounts for the majority of flood damage. Because it is a natural attribute of rivers to produce flows that cannot be contained within the channel, the floodplain is indeed a part of the river during such events. It is therefore important that planners know something about these characteristic features, and thus possibly counteract to some degree the emphasis placed on flood-control protection works. More logical is flood damage prevention by the restriction of floodplain use.”
In short straight sections in between meanders, stream pools and riffles alternate in consistent ways due to the creation of gravel bars on the convex side of a meander. “The distance between successive bars averages five to seven channel widths.” The alteration of steep (over the riffles) and less steep water (over the pools) is characteristic of rivers, as is the fact that meanders are steeper than the average straight section. I think this is the “pool-riffle spacing” Carol is speaking of. She may be suggesting that in-stream work should seek to maintain this kind of pool-riffle spacing, and ensure that stream slopes are not severely altered.
The worst thing to do, according to Dunne and Leopold, is to severely shorten a river channel with consequent change in channel gradient. “An imposed change of river slope can cause an instability quite irreversible in any short period of time, and is the most difficult change to which a stream must adjust.” It appears this is exactly what heavy equipment operators did to Johns Brook, and may be doing to other stream sections.
The authors’ conclusions may be ones which Governor Cuomo, DOT, DEC, APA, and Essex County should pay particular attention to: “Among the potential costs or disadvantages accruing from channel modification are: 1. Channel instability or effects of channel readjustment to the imposed conditions; 2. Downstream effects especially increased bank erosion, bed degradation or aggradation; 3. Esthetic degradation, especially the change in stream biota and the visual alteration of riparian vegetation, and of stream banks and channel pattern or form.”
Photos: Johns Brook, Keene, before and after channel dredging and grading by state-funded heavy equipment, photos by Naj Wikoff.
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