In 2009 the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Council issued a report entitled “Our Waters, Our Communities, Our Futures” which recommended an ecosystem-based management approach to watershed planning as a means to best manage natural resources and human activities for a sustainable future. In response to this report, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) initiated a focused effort targeted at conserving, preserving, and restoring the environmental quality of the Mohawk River and its watershed while at the same time helping to manage the resources of the region for a sustainable future. At the heart of this approach is the Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda, developed by the DEC and its partners, which contains a series of goals and objectives within the five core management areas of fish, wildlife and habitats; water quality; flood hazard risk reduction; community planning and revitalization; and working landscapes, land use and open space, all serving as benchmarks by which ecosystem-based management activities for the basin have been defined. While the Action Agenda serves as a management document for the basin by providing specific guidance within the watershed, information gaps exist preventing its implementation in certain areas. In order to identify and address these limitations, DEC's Mohawk River Basin Program and its partners at Union College, Cornell University’s Water Resources Institute, and the United States Geological Survey hosted a day long workshop in March of 2014 that brought together over 60 regional experts from academia, government, non-profit, and private organizations and tasked them with identifying specific research needs and address filling data gaps in the Mohawk River watershed.
Highlighted below are the proposed areas of research identified for the Mohawk River watershed to not only further the collective goals of the Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda, but also to move forward by directing and establishing a broad spectrum of primary and applied research themes for each of the goals of the Action Agenda. These results have been compiled into the Mohawk River Basin Program Research Priorities 2014-2016 which serves as a complimentary document to the Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda, and which the Mohawk River Basin Program hopes will be useful to researchers working within the Mohawk River watershed in directing their research.
Fish, Wildlife, and Habitats
The conservation of fish and wildlife resources in the Mohawk River Basin is dependent upon maintaining and (or) improving the quality of riverine (and terrestrial) habitat. Habitat protection, enhancement, and restoration in the basin will require increased knowledge and understanding of: 1) the current status of aquatic (and terrestrial) ecosystems, 2) the effects of climate change, invasive species, and changing land use on important natural resources, and 3) the relations between key resources and the physical, chemical, and biological factors which affect them. Improving public understanding and awareness of interrelated resources and the economic value of such resources is also important to the conservation efforts in the Mohawk Basin.
Protecting and improving water quality within the Mohawk River Basin requires a better understanding of current conditions which include natural sources (such as suspended sediments) and anthropogenic degradation caused by past, present, emerging, and stormwater contaminants. Understanding the extent, persistence, and effects of these contaminants and their sources across the basin will help improve and prioritize restoration activities. Awareness of contaminant risks to human health can be better achieved through improved communication with the public and policy makers.
Flood hazards in the Mohawk River basin are influenced by watershed and meteorological factors including stream and river channel regulation, flood plain conveyance and constriction, ice jam formation, and storm dynamics. The effects of flooding and efforts to reduce flood hazards can adversely impact important cultural, recreational, economic and environmental assets. Development of strategies to reduce flood risks and improve resiliency after flooding requires investigation of the parameters defining the Mohawk River watershed.