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Municipalities learn the science in working with natural streams

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Richard Moody/Columbia-Greene Media Ron Frisbee, resource educator on the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Natural Resource and Environment Team, talking to municipal officials about the Bowery Creek in Acra during a training session called Streams 101 on Saturday.
November 4, 2017 05:17 pm Updated: November 5, 2017 03:33 pm

ACRA — The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene and Columbia Counties held a training session for municipal employees at its fledgling Bowery Creek training facility to show them the resources and teach the science behind working with natural streams for infrastructure and after heavy storm events.

The training session was held at the Cooperative’s Agroforestry Resource Center, located at 6055 Route 23 on Saturday as part of its Streams 101 program. The focus was on sending the message to municipal officials that climate conditions are changing and it is time for municipalities to update their plans regarding streams and creeks.

“We are helping local planning boards and zoning boards by showing them resources and information that could help them update their comprehensive plans,” said Tracey Testo, program coordinator for the organization’s Natural Resource and Environment Team. “It is time to take the dusty plans off the shelf and update them.”

Testo said that if municipalities keep their plans updated with measurements and other information about natural streams and creeks it will make it easier for them if they have to apply for grants down the road, especially after major storm events.

“We also are trying to help inform highway department staff for post-flood intervention so they know to work with the natural current of the streams, rather than against it,” Testo said. “We hold several trainings like this and each is geared to a specific group, such as municipalities or land owners.”

The facility at the Agroforestry Resource Center is a growing project that was conceived of two years ago, at which time there was a feasibility study done, Testo said, through the organization’s partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation called the Hudson Estuary Watershed Resiliency Project, which provides information and resources on flooding and stream issues for all people with a stake in the future of local streams.

Since its inception, the group has proposed the plan and began constructing the facility with the help of the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“Now we are developing a set curriculum that someone could come here and use without needing us here,” Testo said. “That is the next step finalizing the curriculum.”

Testo said they are also looking to install signage for the facility, which has several stations along the Bowery Creek.

The Bowery Creek is currently a high-bank, low-stream creek after Tropical Storm Irene, said Ron Frisbee, resource educator on the Natural Resource and Environment Team, who led the tour of the facility Saturday.

The team is currently studying the creek and taking measurements of the water flow annually and after every rain event.

Alfred Suwara, who attended the training session, said he grew up on a farm along the Bowery Creek.

“That is a very volatile creek because it comes down from the Catskills,” Suwara said. “It used to sweep the barn sometimes.”

Suwara said he bought a land-locked property in New Baltimore that he is trying to get water to with a river crossing project bringing water over from the Sickles Creek, which he estimated is going to cost him more than $100,000.

“The session was very helpful and informative,” Suwara said. “The resources will help me with design and construction. It is a very big project.”