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WALLKILL RIVER BASIN (NY/NJ): WATERSHED PARTNERS, WATERSHED PROGRESS

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Abstract:

The Wallkill River Watershed is an interstate drainage basin that covers 1200 square miles in both New Jersey and New York. Headwaters of the Wallkill River originate at Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey. From here the Wallkill flows roughly 27 miles in a northeasterly direction into New York, where it flows approximately another 60 miles and is a tributary to the Hudson River at Kingston, New York. The beauty of the watershed and the diversity of land uses, recreational areas, and both rural and suburban residential development justify the high value that is placed on this watershed area. The watershed suffers, however, from the pressures that developed and impervious areas and unsound agricultural practices place on waterways. This is evidenced by degraded water quality, decreased habitat, streambank erosion, sedimentation and degraded drinking water source quality. Specific use impairments have resulted in sections of the Wallkill River being included on the New York and New Jersey 303 (d) Lists. In addition, there exists a challenge to coordinate, communicate and coalesce due to the bi-state jurisdictions and political boundaries artificially dividing the watershed.

In March 2000, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) awarded a contract to Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority (SCMUA) to facilitate the Wallkill River Watershed Management Project as part of the New Jersey Watershed Management Program. The project goal was to bring together the major stakeholders including Federal, State, County, and municipal officials, the agricultural community, lake communities, the education community, and interested watershed residents to work in partnership to develop a watershed management plan designed to insure the restoration, maintenance and enhancement of the waterways within the Wallkill River Watershed. The official NJDEP Watershed Management Program was refocused in 2002 and contract funding support was terminated. The Wallkill River Watershed Management Group (WRWMG), however, was able to continue its existence and work because of the unique stakeholder partnerships and commitment to the Wallkill River Watershed that had been generated. The NJDEP, SCMUA, Health Departments of Sussex County, Sparta and Vernon Township, Lake Mohawk Country Club, US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Wallkill Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey Forest Service and the Sussex County Planning Department participate, support and provide in-kind services for various Wallkill River Watershed projects in New Jersey.

In New York, numerous Wallkill River Watershed partners including the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Hudson River Estuary Program, Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District, the Wallkill River Task Force of both Ulster and Orange Counties, and Orange County Land Trust are involved in programs to protect and restore the watershed.

One of the major successes in the Wallkill River Watershed is the surface water quality monitoring program that has been developed and implemented in the New Jersey portion of the watershed. The paper will highlight the roles of each participating partner, the evolution and expansion of the sampling program and the innovative use of in-kind services to stretch resources. The data have been used to guide and support TMDL analyses where needed, support de-listing of 303 (d) List parameters in some cases and provide assistance in the development of watershed restoration plans. A summary of the Wallkill River water quality findings to date will be included. The plans to move the monitoring program into New York by use of public outreach will also be included.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2175/193864705783966783

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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