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Building Watershed Resiliency in the Upper Delaware River Region
MONTICELLO, NY – June 16, 2017 – Leaders from around the region recently gathered in New York’s Sullivan County to learn about the impacts of climate change on local water resources and communities and to discuss strategies for reducing vulnerability to these impacts. The workshop, “Building Watershed Resiliency in the Upper Delaware River Region,” was organized by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and Friends of the Upper Delaware River and hosted by the Sullivan County Division of Planning & Environmental Management and The Nature Conservancy New York Chapter.

The impacts of climate change and dramatically shifting weather patterns on water resources, public infrastructure, and communities are posing new challenges for watershed management and community planning in the Upper Delaware River region. Participants gained an understanding about how increased precipitation, flooding, and drought conditions are affecting local water resources, people, communities, and wildlife.

Stephanie P. Dalke of the Pinchot Institute provided an overview of local climate change impacts that were assessed by the regional Common Waters partnership. More frequent heavy rain events have increased the amount of flooding experienced in the Catskills and northeastern U.S., with expensive results for rural communities. “Local communities need to focus on ‘no regrets’ actions that will protect natural resources, built infrastructure, and communities from climate change,” Dalke said. “This can include improving the design of culverts and bridges to accommodate higher peak stream flows, which benefits both fish and people. Maintaining forest cover along streams is also increasingly important to provide shade and keep water temperatures down in the summer.”

Warmer temperatures have led to decreased snowpack and lower stream flows in summer, causing thermal stress to trout and other important aquatic species. Jeff Skelding, Executive Director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River, discussed work currently underway to develop a Stream Corridor Management Plan for waterways below the NYC Delaware River Basin Reservoirs in Delaware County, NY. Skelding described the value of a stream restoration project on Sands Creek in Delaware County: “Everyone comes out ahead: the project created local jobs, restored aquatic habitat for native and wild trout, reduced sediment pollution, and helped mitigate the increasingly catastrophic impacts of high water events by reconnecting the flood plain.”

In the afternoon attendees traveled to The Nature Conservancy’s Neversink Preserve in Orange County, NY for a firsthand view of a mature, functional floodplain forest and examples of floodplain restoration projects in progress.

This project was supported by a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society through its Climate Adaptation Fund. Support to establish the Climate Adaptation Fund was provided by a grant to the Wildlife Conservation Society from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF).

For more information about strategies to address climate change in the Upper Delaware region, visit www.pinchot.org/resilience.

View photos from this workshop: https://flic.kr/s/aHskX6btUz
 
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