Whether or not you think road crews did the right thing this fall by using heavy machinery to reshape brooks and rivers after Tropical Storm Irene, and whether or not you wonder where the state Department of Environmental Conservation was at the time, it's good to see some improvements being made to parts of these waterways.
According to Enterprise Outdoors Writer Mike Lynch's well rounded article Wednesday, experts believe the careful placement of boulders going on now in Johns Brook, as it flows through Keene Valley, is expected to make such waterways less likely to flood again, less likely to wash away their banks and bridges, and more likely to accommodate fish spawning as well as the boulder hopping that people enjoy in their Adirondack experiences. First steps toward that goal are being made now as the state Department of Transportation works under the supervision of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the DEC and the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District.
More of this kind of thing is needed, and it'll likely happen in the spring, if the state makes the money available. It should.
Natural disasters forever change the landscape, and Irene's rage left brooks and rivers prone to severe future flooding. They were littered with uprooted trees and rocks rolled down from the High Peaks. Many brooks and rivers were completely rerouted. The next time a major rush of water came down - think spring runoff - it would go all over the place.
Something had to be done to protect people and their property, and the towns admirably took the initiative. The state was otherwise occupied, and the governor had lifted DEC and Adirondack Park Agency regulations temporarily to speed up Irene recovery work. But these town crews didn't include engineers or environmental experts. Some of these wonderfully natural Adirondack rivers and streams were treated like canals and came out shaped like urban ditches.
In the future, we may be able to look back and say the towns' quick dredging saved people's property from future flood damage. Also, it may have been the first step for a more extensive recovery anyway. Nevertheless, more has to be done, and that's the state's job.
It's too bad the DEC wasn't able to advise the workers the first time around. That might have saved some duplication.
Town crews were right to act before winter, but they couldn't have known the season would slouch in so slowly this year, letting construction season continue into the second half of December. It's good to see the state taking advantage of this weather and starting these improvements now. Not doing so would be a loss for future generations.