For many years, aquatic habitat essential to brook trout and other species has been compromised due to a migrating channel of the Sacandaga River that has eaten away at a 300-foot reach of a 30 foot riverbank on Griffin Road in the town of Wells, NY. The project team consisting of the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (HCSWCD), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Hamilton County and the Town of Wells Highway Departments partnered together in order to remedy this situation, with the objectives of restoring pool and riffle habitat for fish, reducing riverbank erosion, producing a single cooler, deeper channel and igniting the establishment of riparian vegetation. The eroding bank was stabilized using Natural Channel Design (NCD), a stream restoration method that returns a river to its natural state after disturbance such as straightening, thus preventing further riverbank erosion, promoting soil stabilization and reconstructing flood plain habitat.
The section of the Sacandaga River that flows south towards the Town of Wells into Lake Algonquin possesses a steep gradient that drops 700 vertical feet over 8 miles. As the river flows towards Griffin Road (County Road No. 8), gradient lessens, and the river becomes braided with 4 channels intertwining on the landscape. One of these channels, the eastern channel, has laterally migrated towards the left riverbank, causing severe erosion that threatens the stability of County Road No. 8, utilities including water, electric, and phone, as well as residential property. The riverbank has been eroding at a rate of approximately 2 feet per year. If the situation was not alleviated, County Road No. 8, utilities, and property would eventually be eroded into the Sacandaga River. Sediment has been deposited into the river, decreasing water clarity and filling in critical habitat for aquatic organisms.
The project utilized NCD in order to prevent the riverbank from being further eroded into the Sacandaga River. Three J-hooks were installed in order to redirect the energy of the river away from the eroding bank towards the center of the channel. In addition, these structures create superb habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms. A bank full bench was installed to stabilize the toe of the bank and to act as an artificial flood plain.
Total combined cash (equipment, materials, rental fees) including in-kind services from the project team, was approximately $53,000. Materials for this project were purchased through USFWS, as well as Hamilton County funds. The use of NCD resulted in a tremendous cost savings in comparison to other conventional methods that could have been implemented for this project with one estimate of over 1 million dollars. In addition, NCD is one of the most environmentally sound ways to re-stabilize a river. We wish to extend our sincere appreciation to the USFWS, the Town of Wells Highway Department, and the Hamilton County Highway Department for their diligent efforts in completing this project. We wish to extend a special thank you to Carl Schwartz, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Coordinator of the USFWS, who was recently awarded certificates of appreciation from the Greater Adirondack Resource Conservation and Development Council (GARC&D) and the HCSWCD for his efforts not only in Hamilton County (NCD on the Griffin Road and Elbow Creek projects), but throughout the GARC&D region.