In 2017, RiverWatch staff began discussions with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the New York State Department of Conservation – trustees of the Kodak Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Settlement fund. At their request, we prepared a list of potential project sites from the Allegany County study that would meet their funding criteria. Site visits and detailed discussions followed. Out of this process, a 2,720’ stretch of riverbank near the confluence of the Genesee River and Angelica Creek was chosen. Restoring and stabilizing this site will stop erosion which exceeds 0.5 acres annually.
Past Genesee streambank projects have been accomplished by grading back vertical banks and lining them with boulders to prevent high water currents from scouring away the soil. For this project USF&WS chose to employ a technique called a “toe-wood structure”. In this process, large trees are placed at river bottom level and crisscrossed to form an inter-linked structure with the root wads pointed outward into the river current. Earth is backfilled over this assembly in two “bench” levels that are held in place by grass and tree plantings. (See photos below) In the case of the Chamberlain project, three sloping rock “vanes” were added to further direct flow to the river channel and away from the banks. Among other advantages, toe-wood projects improve habitat for fish and other aquatic life and provide a more natural appearance than rock-hardened structures.
In executing the project, Genesee RiverWatch was responsible for landowner relations, required archeological studies, obtaining the government agency permits, restoration planting and post-construction monitoring. USF&WS managed the detailed engineering and construction phases.
Construction to stabilize the streambank was completed in September 2020. The establishment of the riparian zone on the streambank began in the fall of 2020 and will be completed in the spring of 2021. A 15-foot-wide section of the bank above the toe-wood construction will be planted with native wildflowers and grasses to provide an attractive display of color from spring to fall and attract a variety of pollinators and songbirds