Article originally appeared on dec.ny.gov

DEC and New York State Water Resources Institute Award More Than $325,000 in Watershed Research Grants

Funding Supports Four Projects Addressing Critical Water Resource Issues in Hudson River Estuary and Mohawk River Watersheds and Seven Projects in the Great Lakes Watershed

April 11, 2024

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Water Resources Institute (NYSWRI) at Cornell University today announced $325,994 in grant awards for 11 projects that address a range of environmental research and education needs to advance water resource and ecosystem restoration priorities for New York’s Great Lakes, Hudson River Estuary, and Mohawk River basin watersheds. Funding for these projects is provided through the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and is administered by NYSWRI in partnership with DEC’s Great Lakes Watershed, Hudson River Estuary, and Mohawk River Basin programs.

“Protecting the health of New York’s remarkable watersheds will help ensure aquatic habitats continue to thrive and that communities are better prepared to withstand the challenges of climate change along their shorelines,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Through DEC’s partnership with the New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University, secured through the State’s Environmental Protection Fund, these grants are advancing valuable education programs and projects that will support DEC’s work managing New York’s watersheds.”

Great Lakes Watershed
Project grants help implement the New York Great Lakes Action Agenda’s goals to reduce or eliminate releases of persistent toxic substances, control sediment loadings so aquatic life is protected, prevent and control invasive species, and conserve and restore native fish and wildlife and their habitats. The seven projects selected for funding through the NYSWRI annual request for proposals (RFP) are:

Cornell University, $33,700: FLX PFAS Project: Targeted Water Sampling to Identify Sources of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the Finger Lakes collects up to 200 water samples with the help of undergraduate students and integrate the resulting PFAS concentration data into a web-based platform to communicate findings to the public.

Cornell University, $7,200: Understanding the Impacts of Tile Drain Density on Watershed-scale Nutrient Concentrations Across New York State to create a geospatial dataset covering New York State to assess the impact of agricultural tile drainage on nitrate and phosphorus levels in streams. Statistical models will be built to compare nutrient concentrations between areas with significant tile drainage and those with limited drainage, informing decisions on prioritizing best management practices to mitigate nutrient loadings in key agricultural regions. This project connects with other DEC and WRI-funded projects in Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes that are evaluating benthic cyanobacteria in shoreline environments.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS), Finger Lakes Institute, $39,990: Tolerance of aquatic macrophytes to water quality indicators in the Finger Lakes watershed enhances understanding of aquatic macrophyte associations with water quality indicators in New York's Finger Lakes region, leveraging data from well-established statewide programs like the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) and the Watercraft Inspection Steward Program Application (WISPA). The study seeks to uncover relationships between water quality indicators and macrophyte occurrences, offering insights crucial for effective resource management and conservation efforts statewide.

State University of New York, ESF Partnering with Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS), Finger Lakes Institute, $40,000: Isolation of Benthic Cyanobacteria and Investigation into their Toxin Production from the Finger Lakes and Embayments of Lake Ontario creates understanding of toxin production in freshwater ecosystems by known benthic cyanobacteria - based on variables such as nutrient availability, temperature, and light - through laboratory experiments in controlled conditions.

State University of New York, University at Albany, $39,997: Assessing and Mitigating PFAS Contamination Risks in Surface Water Due to Biosolids Land Application in the Great Lakes Basin assesses the release of PFAS from biosolids-amended soil into surface water. Additionally, it aims to offer insights to stakeholders and land managers on mitigating PFAS migration through techniques such as plant uptake and phytostabilization, utilizing native perennial grasses.

University at Buffalo Partnering with NYSDEC and U.S. Geological Survey, $35,857: Hydrodynamic and Sediment Transport Modeling in Support of Fisheries Sustainability in Eastern Lake Erie to better understand how the varying water currents and sedimentation patterns affect the suitability of eastern Lake Erie fish spawning sites.

Hudson River Estuary and Mohawk River Watersheds

Project grants advance the goals of the Hudson River Estuary and Mohawk River action agendas to improve river and shoreline habitats, reduce flooding, ensure sustainable fisheries, and protect water resources. The four projects selected for funding through the WRI annual Request for Proposals are:

Cornell University, $40,000: Continuing to Improve Water Literacy and Education of the Mohawk River Watershed Through Art, Science, and Indigenous Studies examines how art-based field experiences with the watershed improve learning and change student attitudes and behavior toward the environment. Cornell students and middle schoolers in river towns will create art to illustrate their knowledge, field experiences and concerns, and student work will be displayed at various venues throughout the watershed upon completion.

Cornell University Partnering with US Military Academy and CUNY Brooklyn College, $39,250: Characterizing Spatial Overlap and Potential for Ecological Competition Between Protected and Invasive Fish Species in the Hudson River studies the habitat use and interactions between endangered Atlantic sturgeon and invasive species in the Hudson River Estuary, particularly focusing on their spawning grounds near Staatsburg, New York. Passive acoustic sensors will be used to map the spatial overlap between Atlantic sturgeon and freshwater drum during spawning season to provide insights into species dynamics and aid fisheries management strategies.

Mercy University, $25,000: Stewardship from Diverse Students’ Perspectives engages over 250 K-12 students in Hudson River Estuary watershed stewardship projects. Through mixed methods research, they aim to understand students' environmental awareness and perspectives, informing future marine education programs to be more inclusive and engage diverse learners.

SUNY Oneonta, $25,000: Measuring the Biological Productivity of Hudson River Tributaries with Respect to Potential for Restoration assesses the ecological significance of tributaries to the Hudson River Estuary by examining their biological productivity and the impact of dams on tributaries. The project focuses on understanding how natural and human factors affect the flow of nutrients and energy through these vital waterways, crucial for sustaining fisheries and ecosystem health.

Funding for the implementation of the watershed action agendas is provided by the State's EPF and is an essential part of Governor Kathy Hochul’s ongoing commitment to helping communities become more resilient, including science-based research and outreach efforts. The EPF is a critical resource for environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, recreation access, water quality improvement, and environmental justice projects. The 2024-25 Executive Budget proposes to maintain EPF funding at $400 million, the highest level of funding in the program's history.