This article is part of Genesee RiverWatch’s 2021 Year End Appeal Series – telling the stories behind our significant accomplishments.
Partnering with other organizations has been in the Genesee RiverWatch DNA since the formation of its predecessor organization, the Center for Environmental Information, in 1974. In so doing, we can take advantage of the strengths of multiple organizations while avoiding conflicts over funding and recognition. Examples abound:
River Access: In 2018-20 we partnered with the City of Rochester to design and build the first-ever dedicated canoe/kayak dock facility on the lower river at Petten Street. With a core donation from Genesee Brewery, we provided the initial impetus and funding needed to turn the City’s long-term plan for such a dock into a current reality. The city, led by DES Commissioner Norman Jones, provided additional funding, engineering and permitting resources beyond the reach of RiverWatch. The Petten Street Dock was opened in the Fall of 2020.
Implementing Agricultural Best Management Practices: This year we partnered with the Livingston County Soil & Water Conservation District (LCS&WCD) to apply for a $198K Great Lakes Commission grant to implement “agricultural best management practices” on multiple farm properties in the Jaycox Creek sub watershed of the Genesee River. This work is reducing sediment and nutrient inflows to the Genesee and preserving precious farmland. The first project under this grant involved grading and installing drains and sediment control basins on 85 acres owned by three adjoining farms near North Road in Geneseo. RiverWatch brought its grant writing skills and reputation for solid implementation to the association, while Robert Stryker, Manager of the LCS&WCD, contributed his own reputation for successful project work and his detailed knowledge of the local farm community. This work will continue with additional projects in 2022.
Paddling on the River: In 2021, Genesee RiverWatch offered an expanded series of public paddle events on the Genesee in the Rochester area. To do this required partnering with the Genesee Waterways Center and Erie Canal Boat Company who provided the canoes and kayaks that allowed 71 people to explore the lower river, Red Creek and Black Creek. RiverWatch guided the trips and pointed out areas of historical, cultural, and natural interest.
Streambank Restoration: Mallards Dairy in Allegany County partnered with us on our first-ever streambank restoration project in 2017-2018. Based on this success, we again allied with Mallards to restore 1,800 feet of riverbank near Houghton, NY. As with all these projects, the goal is to preserve valuable farmland while eliminating a major source of sediment and algae-causing nutrients in the river and improving bio habitat. RiverWatch provides initial project engineering, grant writing, permitting, and project oversight skills. Its farming partners provide the “in-kind” work required by federal grant providers. In the case of the Houghton project, the Great Lakes Commission awarded a grant of $197K and Mallards Dairy paid the construction contractor $119K, for a total project value of $316K.
Special Studies at St. John Fisher College: Over the years, we have frequently partnered with St. John Fisher College faculty and students to do special studies that RiverWatch personnel do not have the time or skills to execute. In 2019, the Public Policy class studied the river cities of Milwaukee, San Antonio, Richmond, Chattanooga, and Buffalo. They developed a report that compared Rochester’s river plans with the situations faced by each of these cities and the ways in which each successfully capitalized on their river assets. In so doing, the students were exposed to real time examples of public policy being used to drive economic and environmental benefits, while RiverWatch gained insights to refine our own strategic plans. In 2020, we partnered with the head of Fisher’s Department of Media and Communications to offer a student a web design practicum focusing on upgrading the RiverWatch web site. The student’s input was helpful as we began the work to build and launch our new website in 2020.
Genesee Blueway Map: In 2019-20 we partnered with Genesee River Wilds in Allegany County and the Genesee Valley Conservancy in Geneseo to develop the Genesee River Blueway Map. The new map updates a 2004 map produced by the Sierra Club. It shows safe access points and distances between these points to facilitate trip planning. There is also a new interactive version of the map available on our website. Here again, RiverWatch used its grant writing skills to obtain $25K of NOAA Sea Grant funding to underwrite the project. We also applied our detailed knowledge of the lower river and our website mapping skills. Our partners contributed their intimate experience on the middle and upper river. In addition to the map itself, the team developed new signage for each access site showing, on the land side, the name of the site and the river mileage to that point. On the river side, these signs indicate the upcoming take-out point, its river mileage, and the distance to the next take-out point.
Your Support is Needed
Your support is critical to our ability to continue this work on behalf of our river and our community. As you know, Genesee RiverWatch is dependent on its volunteers to do this work. However, our volunteers need funding to run the organization, offer public events, and do the studies, outreach, and engineering necessary to obtain financing for the larger projects.
Please consider investing $100, $250 – or an amount of your choosing – in Genesee RiverWatch as a part of your year-end giving plan.
The Genesee RiverWatch Team