The 13th Mohawk Watershed Symposium has been delayed by two years due to the pandemic, but we are excited to finally get back together and concentrate on the issues that affect the Mohawk River Watershed. Over the years the Symposium has taken on an important role in unifying and galvanizing stakeholders. Since the last meeting in 2019, the Mohawk River Basin Program has updated and released the 2021-2026 Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda, which is a critical guiding document for the Mohawk River Watershed. The program mission is conserving, preserving, and restoring the environmental quality of the Mohawk River while helping to manage the Watershed’s resources for a sustainable future.
Mitigation of ice jamming on the lower Mohawk River behind the Vischer Ferry dam was targeted by the Reimagine the Canals task force. Since 2020, the Canal Corporation and New York Power Authority (NYPA) have initiated ice-breaking procedures to lessen the impact of ice-jamming with an overall goal of reducing the flood hazard in the Historic Stockade of Schenectady. There, and elsewhere in the basin, communities are implementing flood mitigation projects that include riparian restoration, channel restoration, and building resilience into a system where the hydrology appears to be changing rapidly.
Water quality remains a central issue and a large number of stakeholders are involved in this effort. For a healthy and vibrant ecosystem, along with the ecosystem services that the River provides, we need clean water. The health of our waters can be assessed from hundreds of measurements taken across the Watershed by dedicated stakeholders. New and important state and federal programs will provide local municipalities with the funding to address infrastructure problems that affect water quality. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) is in the process of developing a watershed-wide Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL) for phosphorus pollution, which is a major step in addressing water quality in the Watershed.
Invasive species are having an impact on biodiversity, recreation, and water quality. The uncontrolled spread of Water Chestnut (Trapa natans), that spread from its original introduction in Collins Pond in Scotia, has affected boating and marina access in the lower Mohawk River. The Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus), which was a stowaway in ballast water in Great Lakes freighters, successfully navigated the Erie Canal and entered the Mohawk several years ago, and made it to the Hudson in 2021. It now threatens Lake Champlain. This small benthic predator has the potential to alter our fishery because it preys on the eggs of other fish and carries disease. We need proactive solutions to invasive species control, especially for those unassisted invaders using the Erie Canal from the Great Lakes. As we are reminded by the NYS DEC: “Prevention is the most effective method for dealing with invasive species. If they are never introduced, they never become established.”
Stewardship and education are a critical piece of effective watershed management. Stakeholder meetings like the Mohawk Watershed Symposium and local water advocates play a key role in identifying problems, educating the public, and effecting change where it is most needed. Youth education programs centered on water quality and ecosystem health ensure that all our waterways pass into the hands of a next generation of active, engaged, and knowledgeable stewards.
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