The Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District, plagued by financial difficulties over the past year, is ready to get back to its core mission of providing conservation-related services and programs to the county and is moving forward with an ambitious stream-bank stabilization plan that will make use of new methods to prevent soil and sediment erosion and improve the fish habitat in two bodies of water in the town of Rodman.
The $300,000 project is being overseen by the district and will be paid for with state and federal grants. After receiving bids, the contract was awarded to J.B.s Excavation Services, Appalachin. It will target the area where Gulf Stream meets Sandy Creek in the town of Rodman. The work will be completed during two phases over two years.
We look forward to doing this project and hope to use it as a demonstration of the types of projects we would like to do in the future, said district technician Levi F. Rudd, who is the project manager.
The project will make use of the so-called Rosgen technique, named after David L. Rosgen, the hydrologist who pioneered the method.
Instead of stone or freshly cut lumber, the district will use trees from the county forest that have blown over in high winds.
Exposed to the weather, the trees became stained and cannot be used for lumber.
With their roots intact, the trees provide ideal material for bank stabilization, Mr. Rudd said.
The trunks of the trees will be embedded in the stream and creek banks while the roots will protrude into the water, providing an ideal habitat for the regions fish species, including trout, and keeping the force of the water off the bank.
The project also calls for the creation of a 35 foot buffer between the neighboring agricultural land and the stream and creek for conservation purposes.
Hardwood trees will be planted in the buffer zone to provide shade that will lower the temperature of the water, making it more hospitable to fish.
Due to the trout season, work on the project can continue only until Sept. 15, Mr. Rudd said.
For that reason, the district is planning to complete two-thirds of the project this year and the remaining third next year.
Additional materials for the project are being purchased from Double A Willow, Fredonia; McQuade and Bannigan, Inc., Watertown; and Kings Quarry, Adams Center.
The project is being funded through grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
The district is an independent state-mandated agency created by the county and receives more than half of its operating revenue from the county. The rest comes from state grants and a small amount of earned income.
The district had its regularly-scheduled grant funds frozen by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets earlier this year after it was revealed to its board of directors that the former executive director, Brian J. Wohnsiedler, had been borrowing money against future grants to stretch the budget.
Mr. Wohnsiedler resigned after being confronted about the practice by the board.
Christine M. Watkins, previously the districts agronomist, was appointed interim executive director before being permanently appointed to the position at the districts June board meeting.
Mrs. Watkins said that while the stream bank stabilization project is being funded through a separate pool of money, the district is on its way to begin receiving its regularly scheduled grant funds again after the Jefferson County Board of Legislators agreed to give the district an $85,000 loan so that it can finish paying back the $175,000 it owes to the state.