New York organization receives fund for river preservation

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 11:23 PM EST
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JAY, N.Y. (WCAX) - Ausable River flooding has devastated several Adirondack communities over the years. With new state and federal funding, state and community organizations are hoping to protect and provide resources for the small towns and hamlets surrounding it.

The Ausable River Association has identified 13 projects in the east branch of the river, which is by the town of Jay. Their executive director, Kelley Tucker, says the river’s demise has been years in the making.

“One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, this was the center of a massive logging industry, so the east branch was a river that worked and there was a lot of damage done in those days,” Tucker said.

With $2 million in funding from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, the Ausable River Association hopes to prevent future flooding in the Ausable Forks area by completing a series of restoration projects.

“The work can be everything from rebuilding the actual channel so that it can break up ice and break up flood flow, to simply opening access to a flood plain area,” Tucker explained.

They’ve already done some work in the upper Jay area. Town Supervisor Matthew Stanley says there’s been a noticeable difference in water flow. About this time last year, ice jams in that area led to major flooding.

“During that flood, there was a rapid water rise, and just as quickly as it went up, it went down, but it did displace about, about 20 families,” Stanley told WCAX News.

In addition to work on the river, funding from the state also helped create resources, like a kitchen and showers, in the Jay Community Center.

Suzanna Randall from New York’s Office of Storm Recovery says being prepared for a crisis is important, especially with the increasingly noticeable impacts of climate change.

“We see these deluges where all the sudden the skies open, and it’s like a firehouse of 10 inches, and that’s going to change how these river systems react,” Randall explained. “We’re going to see more flashiness and flooding in these river systems.”

Tucker adds the Ausable River isn’t top of the list for risk of flooding, but the mountainous region makes these resources, and protecting the river’s integrity, vital.

“Because of the rural nature and smallness of this areas and lack of road network… so if you lose one road, you’ve really lost your emergency infrastructure, which makes it very urgent in these communities,” Tucker said.

The Ausable River Association will also be receiving $2 million more in federal funding to complete similar river restoration projects.