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CURB and Partners Present to County Advisory Board

On February 28th CURB Director Ryan Palmer presented information on watershed planning and our ongoing 4-year water quality monitoring study to the County Board of Legislator’s Saw Mill River Watershed Advisory Board. The SWAB, chaired by Legislator MaryJane Shimsky, brings together elected officials; staff from state, county and local governments; and members of community and environmental groups, to share information and support efforts to address needs relating to the river. CURB is partnering with Groundwork Hudson Valley, with support from the NYS DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program, to strengthen the Saw Mill River Coalition and work with the SWAB and other local entities to study and improve the environmental conditions of the Saw Mill.

At the meeting Ryan was joined by Jennifer Epstein from Riverkeeper, Ann Marie Mitroff from Groundwork Hudson Valley, and David Kvinge, Director, Environment Planning at the County’s Department of Planning, in presenting on 2 key topics.

First, a “plan for a plan” was presented, with CURB and our partners calling on a joint effort between the county, local municipalities, and non-profits to apply for state funding to create a Watershed Management Plan for the Saw Mill. A watershed plan is critical tool that through studies and public input assesses current conditions, suggests projects for improvements, and provides a framework for measuring success as the plan is carried out. While many local waterways have one, including our neighboring Bronx River, the Saw Mill has never had a watershed plan! The SWAB group plans to submit an application to the state this summer to fund this important initiative.

Second, information was presented on CURB’s ongoing water quality monitoring study of the Saw Mill and Hudson Riverfront in Yonkers. Jennifer Epstein from Riverkeeper, our main partner on the project, led the presentation which covered what we are testing for, results from the past 4 years, and suggestions for improvement. The bad news is that we are consistently finding very high levels of fecal-indictor bacteria in the Saw Mill River, which suggests the need for major improvements in sewage infrastructure throughout the watershed which stretches from Yonkers to Mount Pleasant. These bacteria levels are often orders of magnitude, such as 10 times or more, above the EPA guidelines for safe swimming and contact recreation. In good news, we have seen some progress in places like the Yonkers daylighting, where the City of Yonkers has been doing a number of improvement projects and fixing illicit discharges along the way.

For more information, to get involved in the SWAB, or volunteer as a citizen scientist in our water quality study, contact Ryan Palmer rpalmer@sarahlawrence.edu.