AuSable resilience project flows forward

JAY — The AuSable River Association and its partners will lead a $1.1 million effort to restore flood resilience and stream health to the East Branch of the AuSable River in the town of Jay.

Ecosystem Planning and Restoration, of Maryland, and Erik Sandblom PC and Fitzgerald Environmental Associates, both of Vermont, teamed up with the association in the successful bid for the project. Additional expertise is being provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Trout Unlimited, Adirondack Chapter.

Funds for the project were awarded to the town after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and are administered by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.

Lots of input

To develop a comprehensive plan for flood resilience for the waterway, a press release from the association said, the East Branch restoration team will use:

¯ Field data

¯ Hydrologic and geomorphic models

¯ Guidance from town government

¯ Input from Jay residents and business owners.

The plan will include conceptual designs of all identified stream and floodplain projects and a scoring matrix for ranking them, with the work to be completed by 2019.

Two to five of the highest-ranking projects will be fully designed, with construction scheduled to start next summer.

Side by side

Collection of technical data describing the state of the river and its floodplain has already begun.

“The town of Jay is a leader in applying tested stream-restoration science in its efforts to protect the community and restore the AuSable River’s East Branch,” AuSable River Association Executive Director Kelley Tucker said in the release. “We’ve worked side by side with the town highway crew to replace undersized culverts on Nugent and Jay Mountain roads.

“These projects revealed the value of stream restoration as a tool to protect local roads, reducing maintenance costs and improving stream water quality and habitat.”

Priorities

“Our priorities after the devastation of Irene were clear: to evaluate and remove the deteriorating Rome Dam, repair the water infrastructure of AuSable Forks and start restoring the East Branch in a way that makes it resilient and healthy while protecting town infrastructure,” Jay town Supervisor Archie Depo said in the release. “We’ve found the right team to work with our community.”

The East Branch runs through the three hamlets of the town of Jay: Upper Jay, Jay and AuSable Forks.

“In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene exposed long-standing vulnerabilities in the river’s capacity to move sediment efficiently,” the release said.

“In a healthy river, a typical spring flood moves small sediment efficiently to floodplains and sorts larger materials along its bed and banks.

“But in a destabilized stream, such as portions of the East Branch today, the same flood scours banks, fills delicate pool habitats with sand, piles cobble in shallow riffles and cuts off access to floodplains.”

The restoration effort will facilitate “resilience for local communities and a healthy river that can better support recreational uses and habitat.”

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