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State awards $640K for flood and environmental projects in Mohawk Valley

Thursday, March 13, 2014
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— Flood-recovery training, night-vision cameras and sediment-gauge projects along the Mohawk River all landed funding in a $640,000 round of grants announced Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The money comes from the Environmental Protection Fund and will be distributed to roughly a dozen projects through the Department of Environmental Conservation. According to the Governor’s Office, all the funded projects were identified as high-priority initiatives within the DEC’s recently established Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda.

Essentially, the DEC has a list of potential environmental and flood-related projects it believes would do a lot of good for the Mohawk River area. These recently funded projects are on the list.

Some $37,400 will help the USGS New York Water Science Center install a sediment gauge in the Mohawk River near the village of Fonda.

According to Science Center Director Ward Freeman, the USGS is looking to expand its efforts to gather data on sediment. The stuff flows down Mohawk waters to the Hudson and out into New York Harbor, Freeman said, accumulating and generally causing problems all the way down.

“Sediment buildup has always been a problem in navigable waters,” he said, “and probably always will be.”

Previous grant funding started a stream-gauge project across the state, with one set for installation in Fonda. The extra $37,400 will buy a turbidity gauge upgrade, allowing scientists to measure the amount of sediment flowing past the village. That data will help guide remediation efforts.

The newly announced grants will also help fund the already installed “jam cam,” a night-vision video camera monitoring ice conditions in real time between Lock 8 in Rotterdam and Freeman’s Bridge in Schenectady. That area of the Mohawk runs right past Schenectady’s Stockade neighborhood. The area is notoriously prone to ice-jam flooding.

An estimated 80 percent of historic Mohawk River floods in Schenectady involved ice jams, which is why scientists installed the camera months before Cuomo’s funding announcement.

“We installed it right before the ice breakup in January,” said Union College geology professor John Garver. “We wanted to get that data.”

According to Garver, who was involved in the jam-cam project, the DEC’s Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda was established before any grant announcements. Some of the priority projects were too much of a priority to wait — including the jam cam. Now the project will receive $34,250 in retroactive funds.

While a few of the funded projects involve fish and wildlife conservation, Cuomo placed a priority on flood planning and mitigation.

“Extreme and frequent weather events have forced us to reimagine New York for a new reality,” he said in a statement. “The funding announced [Wednesday] will help the Mohawk River communities increase resiliency and better prepare for future weather disasters.”

In that spirit, some training workshops set to be presented by Schoharie County Soil and Water Conservation District staff also received funding. Schoharie County was devastated by tropical storms Irene and Lee.

The soil and water district staff gathered a lot of know-how during the recovery.

With the help of $71,800 from the state, they’ll share their knowledge with municipalities throughout the basin. According to information released by the governor’s office, a total of 10 workshops will teach municipalities how to handle flood recovery in an environmentally sensitive manner.

 
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