September 18, 2013

Johns Brook project to restore natural flow

KEENE VALLEY — Work begins this week on a stream-and-habitat restoration project at Johns Brook here. 

Intended to improve water quality, restore hydrological functioning and build fish and wildlife habitat, it is a cooperative effort of the Ausable River Association, Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Essex County, the Town of Keene and private landowners.

After Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, nearly a half-mile of the brook was drastically altered from its natural state, beginning from the Route 73 bridge heading upstream, to reduce the danger of flooding and protect property, according to a press release from the Ausable River Association. 

“Unfortunately, flattening (removing cascades and filling in pools) and straightening the stream channel reduced its ability to dissipate the water’s energy, and the faster-moving water causes additional flooding and erosion problems.

“Furthermore, the stream’s trout habitat was drastically diminished.”

The work to restore Johns Brook is funded by $25,000 from the State Department of Environmental Conservation and Empire State Development and also support from State Department of State through the Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.


Carl Schwartz, state coordinator for Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, designed the restoration project, which will “return the stream channel to its natural shape and character to encourage appropriate sediment transport and improve aquatic habitat, the release said.

“What is now a “U”-shaped channel from bank to bank will be returned to a shape with one deeper side, to keep low water flowing quickly, and one flat higher side (a “bankfull bench”) to accommodate higher flows.

“Sinuosity, as well as cascades, pools and riffles will be returned to the stream to dissipate the water’s power and improve habitat,” the release continued. “The cross vane just upstream from the bridge that was designed in 2011-2012 by (Fish and Wildlife) will be repaired with bigger, more suitable rocks that were in short supply immediately after Irene. This cross vane speeds water and discourages deposition as it passes under the bridge.”

The first phase of restoration, addressing the lower third of the impacted section, should be complete by the end of this month the release said, and as more funding becomes available, similar issues upstream will be remediated.

For more information, call Corrie Miller at 637-6859 or Dave Reckahn at 962-8225.

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