New York SWCD Planting Riparian Buffers to Enhance Water Quality

The Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in New York is using different state funding mechanisms to implement projects, including planting nearly 60 acres of riparian buffers to preserve and enhance water quality across several watersheds.

“Buffers are one of the most cost-effective conservation practices we can utilize,” Schuyler County SWCD Manager Jerry Verrigni said. “We try to include some sort of buffer in every grant we write on farms, no matter what the focus or practices are that we are working on.”

The SWCD recently was awarded more than $230,000 through a Climate Resilient Farming Grant offered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Funding will go toward a multi-barrier approach on three area farms in the Seneca Lake Watershed. The project includes removing livestock from surface waterbodies that are tributaries of the lake and installing buffers. Alternate watering systems, rotational grazing and retention ponds also are planned.

Through the grant, three farms will install about 33 acres of riparian forest buffer and another six acres of herbaceous buffer. This portion of the project would conserve more than 268 tons of carbon dioxide annually. The project also calls for cropland conversion to permanent pasture, retention pond installation, stream and crossing stabilization, diversion ditches and mulching.

Removing livestock from surface water to implement the best practices can be costly and farmers working with the district are able to cut some of those costs, so many are willing to participate in the projects, Verrigni said.

“Most would like to do so themselves for many reasons, including protection of water quality; however, the cost to do so, and at the same time provide a reliable alternative watering system and stabilize a usually eroded buffer area, makes it difficult without assistance,” he said.

“Stand alone buffers on cropland can be more difficult,” Verrigni said. “However, by providing other structural practices, in most cases, farms can be willing to buffer cropland areas as well.”

The conservation district also received $380,154 through the state’s Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program, which will support projects that include planting another 17 acres of riparian buffers on five farms across three watersheds to address water quality challenges.

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