Stabilized Sandy Creek Riverbank Restores Fish Habitat and Reduces Runoff

Stabilization of Sandy Creek involved reconstructing the streambank using willow tree cuttings and boulders. Photo courtesy of Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Stabilization of Sandy Creek involved reconstructing the streambank using willow tree cuttings and boulders. Photo courtesy of Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Project Summary: Planting trees and placing boulders along Sandy Creek in upstate New York has reduced runoff and restored fish and wildlife habitat.

Project name: Sandy Creek Streambank Restoration

Location: Watertown, N.Y.

Description: Sandy Creek in upstate New York flows from near Watertown, N.Y., down into Lake Ontario. The stream had been experiencing severe erosion issues, with areas as large as a foot across sliding off and falling into the water. With so much sediment in the water, newly spawned fish eggs were having trouble developing. With funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative the Jefferson County, N.Y., Soil and Water Conservation District was able to stabilize the bank of Sandy Creek. The county used trees that had been downed by high winds to support and re-shape the riverbank. Tree roots angled into the water provide a safe spot for fish to lay their eggs. As newly planted willow saplings grow, their roots will support the riverbank. Large boulders have been placed strategically throughout the stream to create a variety of habitats—some shallow areas and some deep—while also redirecting the force of the stream away from the shore and towards the center of the river.

Approximate cost of the project: $791,746.47 with $492,984.47 of that coming from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Resource challenge addressed: erosion, sediment build up, poor fish egg habitat

The plantings along the streambank of Sandy Creek have taken hold. At the edge of the water, buried tree roots that stabilize the bank are just visible. The roots provide structure for the streambank, but also a sheltered place for fish to lay their eggs. Photo courtesy of Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The plantings along the streambank of Sandy Creek have taken hold. At the edge of the water, buried tree roots that stabilize the bank are just visible. The roots provide structure for the streambank, but also a sheltered place for fish to lay their eggs. Photo courtesy of Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Key partners (public and private): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District, Great Lakes Commission, New York State Ecosystem Based Management Funds, New York State Agriculture and Markets Funds, Finger Lakes Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance, Environmental Protection Fund, JB’s Excavation Service, and All Season’s Nursery

Types of jobs created: Heavy equipment operators, general laborers, landscape architects

Results and accomplishments: Stabilizing the banks of Sandy Creek has restored the shoreline and nearshore ecosystem in the stream, while also filtering runoff from the land before it enters Lake Ontario. Placing boulders in the river will provide a variety of habitats for fish and will direct water towards the center of the stream to reduce erosion. Fish now have a safe, well aerated place to lay their eggs, thanks to trees and tree roots that were embedded in the streambank to provide stability.

Originally published: February 12, 2016

Comments are closed.