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AUSABLE WATER WISE: Ausable River Association had a busy season

Here is a completed flood-resilient, fish-friendly culvert on Ausable Drive over Potash Brook. (Photo provided)

It’s been a busy spring and summer at the Ausable River Association. Here’s a quick roundup of our efforts to help communities protect our streams and lakes.

Working with our partners, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the town of Jay, we completed construction of two flood-resilient, fish-friendly culverts on two ecologically significant brook trout streams. Imagine a beautiful mountain stream, 10 to 15 feet wide, tumbling out of a protected forest. Now imagine it being forced through a 30-inch pipe under a road. The result is damage to the streambed and banks, blocked passage for fish and other critters, and damage to roads and property in the inevitable storms.

The flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and, just last year, by the Halloween storm emphasized the importance of upgrading our roads by improving culverts. Over 50% of the road-stream crossings in Essex County are estimated to be vulnerable to flooding. The Ausable River Association model is proving effective and cost efficient: preserving the integrity of our streams, sustaining wildlife, eliminating costly maintenance, keeping property safe, and keeping roads open in storms.

The Ausable River Association’s staff continued bi-weekly water quality monitoring throughout the Ausable watershed and made exciting enhancements to our data collection network. Teaming up with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute we increased protection of Mirror Lake by adding a monitoring buoy. And, working through our partnership with the Adirondack Watershed Institute, we expanded our continuous monitoring station network around Lake Placid, allowing systematic tracking of road salt and other water quality challenges.

Without our academic partners, grant support from programs like the Lake Champlain Basin Program, and commitments from local donors like the Holderied family, advances like this wouldn’t be possible.

While our science and technical work needed minimal modifications to meet challenges presented by the pandemic, we reorganized our educational and outreach programming to ensure our contact with the public met state and CDC guidelines. With precautions in place, our River Steward Jake Hill engaged and educated a record number of river users on the East and West Branch Ausable Rivers. AsRA’s staff organized two successful volunteer cleanups and pulled massive amounts of purple loosestrife and other invasives from streambanks and lake shores. Our Ride for the River fundraiser had more riders than ever and our ongoing River Tours — exploring moths, bats, birds, hikes, paddles, and more — have been fully booked.

With autumn upon us, the fun doesn’t stop. We’re preparing for two stream restoration projects in the town of Keene and this week we’re getting our fall native planting and seeding work done. We’ll soon begin a new effort to use environmental DNA to learn the location of prime habitats for our native brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon in the Ausable and Boquet watersheds. And, in Lake Placid, our road salt reduction efforts will intensify as we work with the village and town to prepare new equipment and technology to monitor road salt usage.

All in a summer’s work! All thanks to the financial support of our donors who rose to the challenge and helped us raise over $80,000 in our summer matching campaign.

The work continues.

(Kelley Tucker is the executive director of the Ausable River Association.)