At AsRA, we believe that healthy streams with shaded, cool waters, ample floodplains, and self-regulating flows are essential to sustaining ecological diversity and thriving communities.
In a dynamically stable, self-regulating stream or river, the gradual erosion of channels is a natural process that benefits the stream and its riparian ecosystem. Erosion, in this case, is a dynamic process critical to the creation of diverse habitats in a stream. River scientists call this a graded stream in equilibrium. Erosion in a stable stream is evenly distributed and therefore minimized; the stream transports the flows and sediment coming from its watershed while maintaining channel dimension, pattern, profile, and roughness. When channel shaping variables change-whether it is an increase in water velocity, channel slope, width, depth, discharge, the size or amount of sediment-a stable river will adjust its form and structure. Streams in equilibrium minimize flood damage, maintain water quality, and provide habitat critical for diverse, healthy ecosystems. Of course, it is easiest to find such conditions on wild rivers, with minimal human intervention, but streams flowing through populated landscapes can be managed, and if necessary, restored in ways that keep them dynamically stable and in equilibrium.
Unfortunately, today, sections of many streams in the Ausable watershed are in disequilibrium. Historic land clearing and dredging, development in the floodplain, including roads that encroach on streambanks, and alterations to channels (bridges, culverts, rip-rap, dams) have compromised stream stability. Undersized culverts block fish passage, exacerbate erosion, and collect debris that blocks water flow during storms, undermining and flooding roads, increasing costs to our towns. Sand, gravel, cobble, and boulders from eroding banks fill delicate pool habitats, pile cobble in shallow riffles, widening channels, and cutting off access to floodplains. Unabated, erosion continues, trees fall, banks remain bare, habitat is smothered, and flood resilience for our communities declines, while maintenance costs mount.
The good news? We can replace undersized culverts, allowing streams to run free under roads. And we know how to repair eroding banks, reconnecting streams to their floodplains, and reestablishing natural variations in stream slope, pattern, dimension, and roughness - restoring balance and resilience. Repairs are long-lasting, require little to no maintenance, blend in with the streamscape, and help our streams regain their lost vitality. AsRA actively supports the development and use of cooperative agreements, regulations, and easements that protect river corridors, wetlands, meander areas, and floodplains from development, that limit new encroachments (e.g. roads, bridges, berms) on streams, and - where possible - reduce existing encroachments.
The effectiveness of these interventions will be only as successful as our willingness to give streams the room to roam -- as healthy streams do over time. Only then can they find and maintain their equilibrium and manage storm flows. AsRA is dedicated to providing the public with the information it needs to make thoughtful decisions that protect and restore our freshwater systems while keeping communities safe and thriving.
Climate Ready Culverts - AsRA surveys road-stream crossings and designs replacements for undersized culverts, coordinating funding, permits, and engineering, and supervising construction. Current projects include the Otis Brook system in the Town of Jay, a culvert on Ausable Drive in Jay, Beaver Brook at the Hardy Road crossing in Wilmington, and the Echo Brook system at Mirror Lake Drive in the Town of North Elba.
East Branch Survey - In 2016 and 2017, AsRA's staff and partners walked and measured 33 miles of the Ausable's East Branch, from St. Huberts to Au Sable Forks, to calculate the rate of erosion along its damaged banks. In 2018, we will continue other geomorphic surveys to define the causes of instability on the East Branch and identify potential solutions. Our goal: a cooperative and comprehensive protection and restoration strategy that respects the needs of our communities and the needs of the river.
Dream Mile Natural Channel Design Restoration, West Branch - AsRA is coordinating the restoration of a key reach on the Dream Mile that includes the outlet of Big Brown Brook, known as the Culvert Pool. The two-year project, begun in 2017, will restore sinuosity and function to this reach, ensuring the stability of the Culvert Pool. Check out past natural channel design projects: Rocky Branch, Riverlands, Keene Weir, Woodlea Farms.
J. & J. Rogers Pulp and Paper Mill Dam Removal, West Branch - AsRA is working with the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery, the Town of Jay, Essex County, and the engineering firm Milone & MacBroom to plan and implement the deconstruction of the former J. & J. Rogers Co. pulp and paper mill dam, known locally as the Rome dam.