April 2021
monthly newsletter
Update from the Hudson River Watershed Alliance
Nominate a Watershed WaveMaker!
Do you know an individual, a watershed group, and/or an organization, institution, or business that goes above and beyond to protect water resources in the Hudson River watershed?

Nominate them for a WaveMaker award! 

Criteria and details are available here. Nominations are due by April 18.

This is a recognition award aimed at publicly acknowledging the exemplary efforts of the recipients. The award will be presented at the Hudson River Watershed Alliance's Toast to the Tribs Awards Benefit in June - more details to come!

Pictured: Our 2020 Watershed WaveMaker awardees were Peter Smith, Upper Hudson Watershed Coalition, Albany Water Department, & Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
Breakfast Lecture: Climate Change and the Future of Urban Stormwater
Thursday, April 8, 8:30-9:30 AM

Featured Speaker: Bernice R. Rosenzweig, Sarah Lawrence College

Over the past 3 centuries, urban stormwater management has evolved through the replacement of natural waterways with engineered sewers, the advancement of centralized wastewater treatment plants, and the broad deployment of green infrastructure to supplement gray infrastructure strategies. However, in the coming decades, the reliability of all 3 of these infrastructure strategies will be threatened by the impacts of climate change in the Hudson River Estuary - particularly the combination of rising seas and amplified cloudbursts. In this talk, Dr. Bernice Rosenzweig will discuss emerging collaborations between scientists and city water managers to implement a novel 'three points approach' for urban water management and ongoing research to support these efforts.
Are you interested in joining our board?
The Hudson River Watershed Alliance is seeking interested and committed people to join our board. We would like to encourage dedicated, diverse, and passionate people to join the board of the Hudson River Watershed Alliance. We are an active and working board that focuses on uniting and empowering people to protect Hudson River watershed resources and their communities. We are seeking to diversify our skills, experiences, and membership, as well as strengthen our relationships with like-minded organizations across the Hudson Valley.

More information on the Hudson River Watershed Alliance and board responsibilities are here. If you would like to nominate yourself or someone you know (with their permission), please fill out some preliminary information here.
Watershed Highlight
Microbial Source Tracking in the Sparkill Creek
Map of the Sparkill Creek watershed. For a larger version, click here.
In summer 2020, the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance partnered with Riverkeeper to sample for nutrients. Photo by Jim Elling.
Sparkill Creek sampling site in the lower segment, which is on the NYS DEC's Priority Waterbodies List/Waterbody Inventory as Impaired. Photo by Larry Vail.
Dr. Greg O’Mullan and Larry Vail at one of the MST sampling sites in 2020.
Table 4 shows the human-specific MST assays from dry and wet weather samples. For a larger version, see the full report here.
Wastewater and stormwater infrastructure adjacent to the Sparkill Creek. Photo by Watershed Assessment Associates.
Members of the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance, at a pre-pandemic monthly meeting.
The Sparkill Creek flows eight miles and enters the Hudson River at Piermont Marsh. A largely suburban stream, the Sparkill Creek’s 12 square mile watershed includes parts of Rockland County, NY and Bergen County, NJ. In 2011, water quality sampling by Riverkeeper near the mouth of the Sparkill Creek in 2011 confirmed high levels of fecal indicator bacteria. These findings galvanized the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance to form, and to continue to investigate these water quality problems.

Over the past decade, the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance has developed a series of strong science partnerships to investigate water quality by sampling throughout the watershed. They have partnered with researchers at Columbia University, Queens College, and Dominican College; won grants from the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Estuary Program, NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program, NEIWPCC, and US Environmental Protection Agency; and worked with state and local agencies to develop strategies to improve the water quality issues identified through monitoring. 

The Sparkill Creek was the site of one of the first community science partnerships with Riverkeeper, and regular monitoring has demonstrated widespread fecal contamination in the creek. Since 2011, monitoring at 12-16 sites in the Sparkill Creek has shown levels of enterococcus (a fecal-indicating bacteria) that consistently exceed EPA recreational water quality criteria. A report on data at each site from 2012-2019 is available here. Levels of bacteria at all sites also increase significantly after rainfall. While these patterns have been documented in other Hudson River tributaries, the Sparkill Creek has the highest geometric means and greatest frequency of exceeding EPA’s single sample guidelines out of all the tributaries monitored with Riverkeeper.

The lower portion of the Sparkill Creek is listed as Impaired due to pathogens on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Priority Waterbodies List/Waterbody Inventory, and monitoring by Riverkeeper supports this evaluation.

In 2020, the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance partnered with Dr. Gregory O’Mullan from Queens College to determine the sources of fecal contamination. This project used DNA-base Microbial Source Tracking (MST) assays to determine if human-specific fecal waste was present in samples, and to better understand fecal contamination following rainfall. Funding for the project was provided by Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. and the Rockland County Soil & Water Conservation District. 

Fecal-indicating bacteria can come from both human and animal sources, which poses a challenge for interpreting findings from monitoring. While there is a risk of illness from any source, the level of risk differs. Without understand the sources of fecal bacteria, it can also be difficult to determine how best to reduce those levels. However, new methods have been developed recently to identify specific sources of fecal bacteria in water using host-specific DNA fragments. Scientists can use quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) to identify and quantify DNA that is associated with humans or specific animal sources. 

Dr. O’Mullan used these methods to test six sites in the Sparkill Creek, along with two stormwater outfalls and one culvert leading into the creek. The study goals were to use MST and enterococcus monitoring to determine if human fecal pollution contributes to fecal-indicating bacteria in the Sparkill Creek, and to see how this contribution changed during dry vs. wet conditions. The study used two different human-specific MST assays, which both had consistent results across samples.

According to the study's final report, "...human fecal contamination was detected from four of six sites tested in dry weather (7/28 and 9/17; Table 4), but near the minimum detection limit of the assay in all cases. Following rainfall (9/30), human fecal contamination was found at five of the six sites tested, and in significantly higher concentrations than in dry weather...
The only site that showed no evidence of human fecal contamination under any condition tested was Tackamack, the study site least impacted by human development and located within a forested park."

The samples from the stormwater outfalls and culvert were taken after rainfall and showed evidence of human fecal contamination. MST can be used more broadly both in-stream and in outfalls to continue to track down potential sources of contamination in the watershed.

Sampling for this project also included enterococcus, to compare with the MST results. All dry weather samples from the creek exceeded the EPA's recreational water quality criteria for enterococcus, except for the site at Tackamack. Enterococcus levels at all sites increased following rain, and exceeded the EPA recreational water quality criteria.

This initial survey indicates that human fecal contamination contributes to the fecal-indicating bacteria in the Sparkill Creek, especially after rainfall. The full report for the project is available here, including more specific details on methods, results, discussion, and recommendations for next steps. 

The Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance will follow up on this study with another year of Microbial-Source Tracking monitoring, which is planned for 2021. They are planning a presentation on results in late fall 2021, including findings from the most recent study and how each project has built on the previous over the past decade. More details on this program to come! 

Hudson River Foundation: Mark B. Bain Graduate Fellowship applications due April 19

In 2021, the Foundation will award up to six full-time research fellowships to advanced graduate students conducting research on the Hudson River system. Projects must be relevant to the Hudson River and Watershed and focused on topics related to the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the River, or address social, economic, or public policy issues, including issues related to environmental justice.A fellowship awarded to a doctoral student will include a stipend consistent with the policy of the student’s graduate institution, in an amount of up to $19,000 for one year, and an incidentals research budget of up to $1,000. A fellowship awarded to a master’s level student will include a stipend consistent with the policy of the student’s graduate institution, in an amount of up to $15,000 for one year, and an incidentals research budget of up to $1,000.

Open Space Institute: Barnabas McHenry Hudson River Awards applications due April 19

The McHenry Awards are grants awarded each year to four exceptional young leaders in the fields of environmental conservation, historic preservation, healthy communities, the arts, and tourism. The awards, of up to $5,000 each, provide financial support for undergraduate and graduate students to pair with nonprofit organizations or college professors and execute exemplary projects in the Hudson River Valley. The project itself may be a summer internship or a yearlong endeavor.

NYWEA: Work in Water Internship applications due April 30

As part of the Work in Water grant that New York Water Environment Association (NYWEA) received from the Water Environment Federation, they are looking to provide internships for high school students at eight utilities this summer. Interns will learn about water quality management, see first hand the skills, technology and people working to ensure the water we use is recycled properly.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies: Mid-Hudson YES Program applications due May 21

The 2021 Young Environmental Scientists (YES) program is a paid opportunity for high school students to undertake hands-on watershed research in teams, under the mentorship of scientists, high school teachers, and undergraduates. Students will learn about their local environment while gaining experience forming and testing a research question, analyzing data, and communicating what they find. This is a paid 3-week research opportunity and will include field and lab components. It will run from July 26-August 13. 


Riverkeeper: Upriver/Mohawk Civics & Community Stewardship Coordinator

The Upriver/Mohawk River Civics and Community Stewardship Coordinator will carry out the Community Partnerships program strategies and tactics to advance Riverkeeper’s campaign and policy work, to activate and support a broad range of grassroots community advocates and municipal leaders, particularly in communities that are historically disempowered or overburdened by environmental harms, to organize and convene in order to address issues in the Upriver and Mohawk watershed. 

Mohonk Consultations: Part-time Freelance Program Coordinator

Mohonk Consultations Inc., a nonprofit based at Mohonk Mountain House that presents programs related to sustainability, the environment, and peacebuilding, seeks an organized, detail-oriented, experienced freelance program coordinator. The primary function of this role is to support the managing board of directors in publicizing and presenting programs. The selected candidate will work closely with the board on program development and execution, website maintenance, and communication with the press and public. Programs will be virtual until in-person programming can resume at Mohonk Mountain House.

NYS Urban Forestry Council: Part-Time Equity & Justice Coordinator applications due April 15

The New York State Urban Forestry Council (NYSUFC) is a 501(c)3 organized formally in 1999 to advise and assist the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in executing its urban and community forestry program. The NYSUFC seeks a part-time Equity & Justice Coordinator to develop, champion, and roll out a nascent Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion strategy. Under the leadership and expertise of the Equity & Justice Coordinator, our ultimate goal is to integrate equity into every aspect of our work, including membership, Board participation, programs, funding and grant allocation, education, and the annual New York ReLeaf Conference.


NYS DEC: Buffer in a Bag applications due April 12

Through Buffer in a Bag, NYSDEC's Trees for Tribs and the Saratoga Tree Nursery provide landowners with a free bag of bare-root trees and shrubs to enhance a streamside area on their property. Private and public landowners may apply for a free bag of 25 tree and shrub seedlings for planting near streams, rivers, or lakes to help stabilize banks, protect water quality, and improve wildlife habitat. To qualify, landowners must have property in New York State with at least 50 feet that borders a stream, river, or lake, and provide photos or a map of the planting location. This program is available for all landowners in New York State, including the Hudson River Estuary watershed.

NYS DOT: Bridge NY Program applications due April 14 (culverts) and May 5 (bridges)

The NYS Department of Transportation is accepting applications for the BRIDGE NY funding program, which will help local governments over the next two years restore and replace bridges and culverts statewide. These infrastructure investments will enhance the quality of life for residents and businesses in every region of the State and provide support for making communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Draft applications must be received by April 14, for culvert projects and by May 5 for bridge projects. 

USDA: Urban and Community Forestry National Challenge Cost Share Grant Program due April 16

The USDA Forest Service seeks innovative (new, cutting-edge or builds upon existing studies) grant proposals for program development, study, and collaboration that will address urban and community forest resilience and aligns with one or more applicable goals in the National Ten Year Urban and Community Forestry Action Plan (2016-2026). 2021 grant categories include: Increasing Resiliency of Urban Forests through Reforestation and Management and Planning Disaster Mitigation Strategies for Urban Forests. Applicants are required to contact their Forest Service Regional Program Managers prior to applying so they may provide program guidance and address application questions.

Hudsonia Ltd. & Hudson River Estuary Program: Application for Training and Technical Assistance on Critical Environmental Areas due April 30

Hudsonia Ltd., in partnership with the Hudson River Estuary Program, is pleased to offer a training and technical assistance opportunity for communities in the ten-county Hudson River estuary watershed that wish to designate a Critical Environmental Area (CEA). Hudsonia and Estuary Program staff will guide a working group of community representatives through the steps necessary to identify, delineate, and describe a CEA, and to seek adoption by the municipality. Assistance will be provided with drafting the map and description for a proposed CEA. This assistance is available at no cost. To be eligible to apply, the community must have completed a local natural resources inventory, open space plan, or similar project identifying conservation priorities.

Hudson River Valley Greenway: Planning and Trails Grant applications due May 7, September 10, & November 8

The Hudson River Valley Greenway Grant Program provides matching grants to Greenway Communities and Compact Communities. Greenway Communities are eligible to receive up to $10,000 to develop plans or projects consistent with the five Greenway criteria: natural and cultural resource protection, economic development, public access, regional planning, and heritage and environmental education. Higher amounts are awarded for intermunicipal projects. Plans can include natural resource inventories, open space plans, comprehensive plans, and more. The Hudson River Valley Greenway Conservancy Trails Grant Program is dedicated to funding recreational trail projects.

US EPA: The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program applications due May 7

The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program provides financial assistance to eligible organizations working on or planning to work on projects to address local environmental and/or public health issues in their communities. The program assists recipients in building collaborative partnerships with other stakeholders (e.g., local businesses and industry, local government, medical service providers, academia, etc.) to develop solutions that will significantly address environmental and/or public health issue(s) at the local level. The EJCPS Program requires selected applicants, or recipients, to use the EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Model as part of their projects. 

US EPA: Environmental Justice Small Grants Program applications due May 7

The Environmental Justice Small Grants Program supports and empowers communities working on solutions to local environmental and public health issues. The program is designed to help communities understand and address exposure to multiple environmental harms and risks. Environmental Justice Small Grants fund projects up to $50,000, depending on the availability of funds in a given year. All projects are associated with at least one qualified environmental statute.

NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program: Cornell Climate-adaptive Design Studio Host Community Letter of Interest due May 10
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program announces an opportunity for Hudson riverfront municipalities to host the Cornell University Department of Landscape Architecture’s Climate-adaptive Design Studio during the fall of 2021.The semester-long studio links students in landscape architecture with Hudson Riverfront communities to explore design alternatives for thriving, climate-resilient waterfront areas. Community stakeholders take part throughout the studio semester to help inform the design process and support practical results. An informational webinar will be held on Monday, April 12 at 1:30 pm. Webinar registration at: tinyurl.com/CaDstudio

NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program: Local Stewardship Planning Grants applications due June 2

This funding will help communities in the Hudson River estuary watershed increase resiliency to flooding, protect water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and enhance natural resources. The minimum award amount is $10,500 and the maximum award amount is $50,000, with 15% match. This funding is from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Eligible projects advance four categories of projects and programs through planning, feasibility studies, and/or design:
  • Hudson River shoreline communities to adapt land uses and decision-making to factor in climate change, flooding, heat, drought, and sea-level rise projections;
  • Making water infrastructure more resilient to flooding and/or sea-level rise;
  • Watershed and source water management planning (including assessing and monitoring water quality, developing a watershed characterization, and planning and designing water quality improvement projects); and
  • Conservation of natural resources by creating a natural resources inventory, open space inventory/index, open space plan, conservation overlay zone, open space funding feasibility study, or connectivity plan.

NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program: River Education Grants due June 2

Approximately $200,000 is available to support projects to enhance education about the estuary along the tidal waters of the Hudson and make opportunities to learn about the Hudson River Estuary more accessible. The funding may be used to design, equip and/or construct educational facilities (including signage, exhibits, and river-focused art installations), support development of plans or curriculum, purchase of equipment, and/or development of web sites or mobile phone apps. The minimum grant award is $10,500, and the maximum grant amount is $40,000, with 15% match.

NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program: River Access Grants due June 2

Approximately $200,000 is available in the RFA for River Access for projects along the shoreline of the Hudson estuary, including the tidal portion of its tributaries, that provide new or improved accessibility at new or existing access sites for boating, fishing, swimming, and/or wildlife-dependent recreation. The minimum grant award is $10,500 and the maximum grant amount is $50,000, with 15% match. This funding is from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).

NYS DEC: Applications for funding to support eligible dam repairs due June 11

DEC is now accepting applications for grants to assist with technical, planning, design, and other pre-construction activities associated with the rehabilitation of eligible dams classified as High Hazard dams. Local governmental entities and municipalities, including but not limited to counties, cities, towns, and villages, and not-for-profit corporations with dam projects in New York State are eligible to apply. Projects must be in a county with an approved hazard mitigation plan. Projects and applicants must meet additional eligibility criteria as described in the Request for Applications. A total of $650,000 in grants is available, with awards up to $100,000 per project. Funding is provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) High Hazard Potential Dam (HHPD) grant program.


Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center: Planning for Drinking Water and Wastewater Projects webinar on April 5 at 1:00 PM

Plan a successful drinking water or wastewater project! Join the Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center to learn directly from state and federal funding agency representatives. In this webinar, we will focus on the planning process for water infrastructure projects, the Intended Use Plan, and available engineering planning grants. Presenters include representatives from USDA Rural Development, NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation, NYS Departments of Environmental Conservation, Health, Homes & Community Renewal, and State. This webinar is part of the "Planning and Funding Municipal Water Infrastructure: Webinar Series for Local Leaders"

RCAP Solutions: Wastewater Options for Small Communities webinar on April 22 at 6:00 PM

Join RCAP Solutios for an online workshop for municipal and community leaders, boards, residents, and planners on wastewater strategies for small communities. This workshop includes a virtual tour of several small systems installed in recent years in eastern New York and presentations by experienced planners and designers from Dutchess County Water and Wastewater Authority, Lamont Engineers, Tighe & Bond, and RCAP Solutions.
The Hudson River Watershed Alliance unites and empowers communities to protect their local water resources