The Future of the Wallkill

From the April event, “The Future of the Wallkill”, held at SUNY New Paltz:

Future of the Wallkill River – Next Steps from Breakout Sessions

Research:
• Engage the research community to add to the scientific understanding.
• Share data and other information, possibly through technical symposia.
• Create baselines, benchmarks, and indicators of measurable progress for water quality and habitat protection
• Increase monitoring to learn more about water quality issues in the Wallkill River (higher frequency or event-based bacteria monitoring, macroinvertebrates/WAVE, DDT/fish tissue). Determine where additional sampling or gaging should take place, and for what parameters.
• Take a closer look at tributaries to the Wallkill and trace them to their sources to better understand if/how they are contributing to water quality problems.
• Drinking water-related projects (compiling existing data, new studies, mapping, monitoring)
• Use data to prioritize agricultural conservation
• Investigate habitat restoration needs, especially focused on floodplains and farmland
• Track down sources of fecal-indicating bacteria to identify, prioritize, and eliminate sources that compromise water quality for recreation.

Organizational Logistics/Capacity Building:
• Update the watershed management plan as needed.
• Identify new action items from the Wallkill River Watershed Management Plan and other plans (open space, farming, etc.)
• Create sub-watershed plans within the Wallkill River watershed with detailed local actions.
• Consider starting a “Friends” group.
• Engage local citizens to bring watershed issues to local elected officials.
• Identify a way to facilitate communication and coordinate efforts focused on the Wallkill River watershed. Inform people what each other are doing, interpret data, and educate people on various issues.

Advocacy:
• Find an approach to get updated New York State freshwater wetland maps officially released by the DEC.
• Improve notification about issues related to water quality, such as expanding Sewage Pollution Right to Know and/or high-frequency water quality monitoring.
• Revisit local regulations (septic systems, planting, zoning) and incentives (septic systems, planting, agriculture).
• Encourage farmers to use agricultural best management practices (BMPs), and streamline programs to make incentive payments available to farmers to adopt or use these practices (such as cover cropping).

Education:
• Identify relevant case studies for drinking water/water quality and learn from their mistakes/successes, especially other local watershed groups.
• Provide residents and decision-makers with basic education on watershed issues, such as septic system maintenance. (Speaker series?)
• Create events to bring community attention to the Wallkill River, including getting people down to the river and its tributaries to experience it first-hand. (Paddles, field trips to wildlife refuge in New Jersey, New Paltz’s Regatta, engaging with recreational user groups, holding educational events, or more social events like festivals, potlucks, music.)
• Use social media as outreach and awareness-raising tool.
• Add education components at waterfront parks.
• Inform groups that are on the river (kayakers, etc.) and municipalities about how to report problems.
• Educate the public about water quality, the meaning of water quality classifications, and public health, focused on known/likely risks of recreation on/in the water.
• Raise awareness about “active river area,” and the relationship between wetlands, floodplains, and the river.
• Learn about needs of NY Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) that occur in the Wallkill and watershed, and what should be done to maintain their presence.

Direct Action:
• Encourage farmers to use agricultural best management practices (BMPs), and streamline programs to make incentive payments available to farmers to adopt or use these practices (such as cover cropping).
• Revisit local regulations (septic systems, planting, zoning) and incentives (septic systems, planting, agriculture).
• Identify and conserve important watershed habitats and natural areas, including small wetlands, small streams, riparian buffers, and unfragmented forests. (Trees for Tribs)
• Regularly access the river and keep an eye out for pollution problems.
• Identify locations where access could be improved or added, including parks and other municipally-owned land, sites on tributaries, and areas with dams or shallows.
• Connect boating access sites as part of a “blue trail.”
• Undertake water conservation measures, such as rain water collection/harvesting.

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