Dutch Hollow Creek Water Quality Improvement Projects Move Forward

Randall Perry of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance briefs prospective contractors at a site on Dutch Hollow Creek. Photo by Claire Quadri

On a wet and muddy day at the tail end of March, prospective contractors toured two eroded streambank locations on Dutch Hollow Creek, a sub-watershed in the Town of Ellery that drains to Chautauqua Lake’s southern basin. This activity was a key step toward the completion of a pair of New York State grant-funded Water Quality Improvement Projects (WQIPs) along Dutch Hollow Creek and part of the Chautauqua County-led Chautauqua Lake Tributary stabilization program.

The contractors observed site conditions in preparation of competitive bids to complete the proposed stream restoration. Given the rain and snow events prior to the day of the site visit, streamflow was high, and the purpose of these projects was clear. Stream water flowed quickly by crumbling streambanks, and the fast-moving water cut its path into the unvegetated, nutrient-rich soils. (You can see photographs and a short video showing these stream bank conditions at the CWC’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.

Nutrients, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen, which are carried to the lake in tributary creek sediments and/or dissolved form, are significant factors contributing to algae and excess plant growth in Chautauqua Lake. Additionally, excess sediment delivery to the lake contributes to loss of lake depth and provides a fertile substrate for aquatic plant growth and/or algal blooms.

A 2014 Erosion Diagnosis and Mitigation Engineering Study, prepared by Barton & Loguidice for the Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Economic Development, which was undertaken to identify priority action areas where stream stabilization and restoration projects like these would have maximum benefit, indicates that the Dutch Hollow Creek drainage system exhibits localized channel erosion in upstream tributaries, which results in larger-scale impacts further downstream. Thus, these two projects, one in an upstream tributary and one further downstream, aim to work together to improve overall water quality and stream stability.

The proposed project on the West Dutch Hollow Creek upstream tributary will include channel, bank, and floodplain grading and construction of multiple engineered structures for grade control and bank protection within an approximately 850-foot-long reach. The proposed project on a downstream section of Dutch Hollow Creek will improve and stabilize about 1,100 feet of stream corridor, through a combination of grade stabilization structures, including in-stream rock riffle structures, and channel and bank grading. Additionally, at both sites, streambanks will be protected with rock and plantings of willow and native vegetation. The intent of the projects is to stabilize the streambanks, slow head-cutting and incision (down-cutting), and reduce stream velocities and stress within the channel banks, and thus, reduce the total sediment and nutrient load to Chautauqua Lake.

Multiple competitive bids for the projects were received from the contracting firms participating in the site tour back in March. The bids were opened on April 13th and are currently being reviewed by the County. The number of bids bodes well for a competitively priced, high quality work product. As all environmental permits for this project are in place, the projects are on track for the 2018 construction season.

The purpose of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Water Quality Improvement Project Program is to reduce polluted runoff, improve water quality, and restore habitat. The local partners on these WQIP projects are the Chautauqua County Planning Department, the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance, the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.

Funding for these projects was provided in part by the Environmental Protection Fund as administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Chautauqua County, through a share of its Occupancy Tax Program and reallocated Chautauqua Lake Management Commission (CLMC) capital funds, provided the local match funds for these projects.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.

On Saturday, April 28 from 9-11:30 a.m., the CWC and Lake Erie Bird Club will hold a Northern Chautauqua County Songbird Migration Tour, starting at the Central Avenue Pier in Dunkirk. The tour is free and open to the public. Visit the CWC website and Facebook page for more event details.