The Future of the Wallkill: Follow-up

Notes from the June 4th followup meeting to “Future of the Wallkill”, by Emily Vail:

Notes from Wallkill Watershed Group Meeting
June 4, 2015
New Paltz Village Hall
7:00PM – 8:30 PM

Introductions – Why are you here?
Swimmable river
Want to get things done
Historical aspects of the river
Monitoring/research
Concerns about upstream issues (powerplant) and how to talk to neighbors upstream
Kayaking on the river
Concern for wetlands/riparian zones
Creating monthly Boat Brigade to get on the river and observe conditions
Educating the public on issues
Concern for tributaries to the Wallkill (such as Trib 13)
Interest in advocating for regulatory changes

Watershed Groups in the Hudson Valley
Maureen Cunningham, Hudson River Watershed Alliance
Watershed groups serve as local watchdogs and play an important role in keeping residents of a watershed informed.
There are 20+ watershed groups and lake associations in the Hudson Valley.
The Stockport Creek, Quassaick Creek, and Moodna Creek each have different types of successful watershed groups. The Stockport has one leader who educates residents, the Quassaick has a group of committed citizen volunteers, and the Moodna has an intermunicipal council.
There’s no one model for watershed groups, but in general it helps to have local leadership, SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, time-bound), regular meetings, social marketing, and momentum to build on small successes.
Although the Wallkill already has a watershed management plan, it could be supplemented with an implementation plan or work plan to make sure recommendations are implemented.

Discussion
Need to identify the mission of this new watershed group
Visions for the future of the Wallkill River were identified at the April 24 meeting at SUNY New Paltz, and video is available.
What’s keeping the Wallkill from being swimmable?
Proposed mission statement: “We want to make the Wallkill River swimmable, fishable, and ecologically healthy for present and future generations.”
5 Es – encourage, educate, enlighten, enjoy, and engage
Baltimore Harbor set a goal of swimmable water quality by 2020, and water quality is much worse there – could set similar goal or campaign for the Wallkill
Should focus on the health of the river, not just swimmability
There are otters near Springtown Road, and there have been other wildlife sightings.
Need more access to the river to help people interact, such as trails
Dam removal
People see the Shawangunk Ridge as an asset, but not the Wallkill River. We should change the language and perspectives to highlight the interconnections between the two. The bridge project poses an opportunity to bring recognition to the Wallkill.
We need a plan to find out where the pollution is coming from, and to look more closely at maps and existing data to track down pollutants. We should take a comprehensive look at the tributaries, wastewater treatment plants, and stormwater outfalls, along with pulling together all existing water quality data, to monitor and better understand inputs into the system. It could be helpful to show what subwatersheds are contributing the most pollution, to engage and motivate residents.
Detergents and other chemicals that are used in the watershed end up in the water.
New Paltz has a good community newspaper that can help raise awareness of watershed issues. Volunteers could write regular educational articles on the Wallkill, and they could publicize/relate to the speaker series.
We need more visuals to help people understand the Wallkill, both the good aspects and the bad. It will be important to hone our PR message, so that people understand that the river isn’t all bad or all good.
It’s important to stop pollution before it happens.
Look at incentives to reduce dumping, such as refrigerators, along the river.
Publicize water quality data.
The Wallkill is more than the river itself; the health of the Wallkill depends on the health of the watershed. There are many known strategies that can help improve watershed health, including reducing or managing runoff from impervious surfaces, improving streamside buffers, etc.
Between the tributaries and the main stem, we will have to consider working at different scales. There are different government agencies, organizations, communities, and states that would need to be brought into the conversation at different scales. Although it’s complicated, these conversations need to happen. We should nest subwatersheds into the bigger picture. Working groups could be organized around different scales. There’s a need to convene a larger group to talk about the whole Wallkill watershed.
We need to improve our collective knowledge base on the pollutants of concern and where they come from. A speaker series, with experts focused on particular topics of concern, would be really helpful to educate this group and other residents.
We need to get more people on the water to see where pollution might be coming from. The river is clean sometimes, which means that it can be clean all the time.
Boat Brigades in Wallkill (June 6), New Paltz (June 27), and Rosendale (July 25)
Although there’s a lot to do locally, there are still concerns about what’s going on upstream, particularly with proposed power plants, landfills, and hazardous waste.
John Mickleson is offering Google Earth trainings, if anyone is interested in learning how to use this mapping tool.

Next Steps
Boat Brigades in Wallkill (June 6), New Paltz (June 27), and Rosendale (July 25)
Monthly meeting of the watershed group with updates from work groups, next date TBD
Work groups to meet prior to next meeting. Contact Jason West (jasonwest.mail@gmail.com) to join or add a work group.
Boat Brigades – Craig Chapman & Brenda Bowers
Regulations/Policy – Rich Picone
Pollution/Stormwater Mapping
Scientific Research – Neil Bettez
Public Education/Outreach
Visit the Google site to review existing information, including the Wallkill River Watershed Conservation and Management Plan
Decide on a name for this group
Engage Orange County stakeholders to see if there’s interest in another Future of the Wallkill River event (or another kind of event) upstream of New Paltz

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