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New York district tackles erosion and promotes stream conservation

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One New York farmer’s erosion concerns has prompted the Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to use a $244,130 grant to install riparian buffers on the property and conduct streambank protection and wetland mitigation downstream.

The farm sustained erosion damage following heavy rains last year and contacted the SWCD for assistance. After walking the site, the district proposed a larger project for retired farmers in Spencer, and in July, the district was awarded the funding through the state’s Climate Resilient Farming Grant program.

“In other projects, we do the buffer or the stream component, so this will allow us to do it all together, as well as monitor the stream and the buffer to ensure we have establishment of the treatments and that we’re addressing the erosion,” Tioga County SWCD Director Wendy Walsh said.

“We had an opportunity to write a proposal to emphasize not only the erosive bank but the entire streamline corridor, the adjacent land and the other streams that come together on the property,” she said. “The landowners were pretty open to whatever we needed to incorporate into a proposal to get funding. They are excited about moving forward.”

The grant will fund conservation practices to rehabilitate five streambanks that total 910 feet, 3,600 feet of berm removal, 3.5 acres of wetland enhancement, 3.5 acres of upland planting and more than 13 acres of riparian forest buffer, including 1.3 acres of cropland conversion.

Tioga County SWCD also plans to install four stream cross sections to monitor and establish a baseline for the stream so the district can observe how the project work reacts to large storm events.

Over the years, berms have locked water on the land, preventing even distribution, which increases the water velocity and forces water to flow through fields in order to find an area to get back into the streambed channel, causing cropland and streambank erosion. Gravel berm removal will allow for increased floodplain capacity and reduction of invasive species that have covered the berms.

“The landowner has trusted us to do what needs to be done to stabilize the stream,” Tioga County SWCD Nutrient Management and Water Quality Specialist Danielle Singer said. “It takes a lot of creativity to pull funding together for these kinds of projects with different practices, and the numbers are significant, so we’re trying to pair this with other programs that would provide additional incentives to the landowner and get an easement in place so the project will be safeguarded in the future.”

“We ultimately plan to use the project as an example of completed work that we can demonstrate to municipalities, landowners and other farmers to explain the natural stream processes and the benefits of stream conservation work, wetlands and riparian buffer zones,” said Walsh. 

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