AsRA coordinated a natural stream restoration at the popular Keene Town Beach on the Ausable River, across from Marcy Field. With storm recovery funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the old wood and concrete weir, damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, was removed. In its place a natural rock weir and vane restores the stream's hydrologic function, provides habitat for native fish, and improves the quality and safety of recreational opportunities.
A weir is a structure designed to modify the flow of water, generally smaller and less complex than a dam. The new weir will maintain the long popular swimming hole. The old structure impeded the passage of fish and other aquatic organisms, directed flood flows toward the banks of the river, increasing bank erosion, and at certain water heights allowed the formation of small whirlpools. AsRA worked in partnership with Supervisor Ferebee and the Keene Town Board, the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Trout Unlimited (TU), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the NYS Department of State to design a repair that would enhance public uses of the beach and restore the natural flow of the river and habitat diversity. Typically, FEMA flood response funds rebuild damaged structures to their original specifications. Supervisor Ferebee worked with staff from AsRA and SWCD to convince FEMA a natural design would better suit the recreational, economic, and scenic interests of the community and follow current best management practices and permitting, overseen by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Adirondack Park Agency.
Trout Unlimited led a survey of the stream site to describe the natural profile, dimension, and flow of the river along this reach. With this information, AsRA and the FWS designed the W-weir and rock vane that was approved by the Keene Town Board and by FEMA. Natural boulders were placed securely in the shape of a "W" where the damaged wooden structure stood. Scattered clusters of three to four boulders each were added downstream of the weir to provide grade control and fish habitat. The new weir maintains a natural pool, improves water flow, and adds habitat. The vane extends into the river on the far bank upstream of the weir, pointing upstream at a 25 degree angle. It protects the bank by moving water into the center of the stream and reinforces the flow of water into the pool.
This project continues AsRA's efforts to restore the East Branch's ability to withstand floods and make it a wild fishery once again. Together with the work done to stabilize eroding banks at Rivermede Farms in 2012, and to restore of the lower reaches of John's Brook in 2013, the new weir contributes to the ecological rebirth of the East Branch.