Cold Brook Stream Improvement
Keuka Lake, NY

Grantee: Steuben County Soil & Water Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $14,000
Non-federal Funds: $25,778
Project Duration: 06/1996 - 09/1997
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Due to unchecked streambank erosion, Cold Brook has left its channel approximately three miles south of Keuka Lake and now flows across adjacent crop land before it reenters the permanent channel another mile down stream. The change in direction of Cold Brook has caused an increase in erosion of the brook's streambank and of the crop land now covered by the channel, and an increase in the transportation of nutrients and other pollutants through the system.

Before photograph

Cold Brook is located in Steuben County and is considered to be one of the best rainbow trout nurseries in New York. However, severe soil erosion problems have caused the river to leave its channel over a one mile reach and flow across adjacent crop land. This has had a dramatic impact on drinking water and aquatic habitat quality due to increased sedimentation, elevated nutrient loading, and decreased channel depth. All have contributed to a decline in rainbow trout population in both Cold Brook and Keuka Lake.

Steuben County is located in the south central part of New York State at the foot of the Finger Lakes region. The physiography of the county is characterized by steep rolling hills with steep, narrow valleys traversed by high gradient, fast flowing, very erosive streams. According to the New York Erosion and Sediment Inventory, published by the US Department of Agriculture's NRCS, approximately 515,000 tons of soil are being eroded each year from some 2,070 miles of streambanks in the county. In response, the Steuben County Soil & Water Conservation District established priorities for projects that are jeopardizing water quality, public and private properties, as well as fish and wildlife habitat. The section of Cold Brook described above is one of the top priorities.

The goal of this project was to improve the water quality of Cold Brook and Keuka Lake by reducing streambank erosion and decreasing sedimentation. As part of this goal, project planners intended to improve the cold water fisheries in Cold Brook and Keuka Lake. The project also limited nutrient and other nonpoint source pollutant input into Keuka Lake and protected soil resources of nearby crop land.

Project personnel surveyed and designed restoration plans for the project areas and secured permits for the required work. They removed gravel bars, brush and snags and installed rock rip-rap along 3,000 feet of channel. They constructed a sedimentation basin to trap sediments. In addition, they used biotechnical engineering techniques, consisting of willow planting and hydro-seeding, to help stabilize the streambanks.

After photograph.

This project has resulted in improved fishing on Cold Brook, a popular public access fishing stream since it is the main channel for Keuka Lake rainbow trout propagation. Fish habitat has been improved by uncovering existing wooden habitat structures and increasing the potential for survival. Erosion control and restoration of the brook to its original channel has begun to return the channel's bed to a gravel composition, thereby improving spawning habitat. Water temperatures are also more conducive to fish habitat. Controlling the streambank erosion has also improved fish migration. Previously, the high sediment loads resulting from crop field and streambank erosion impeded the migration of rainbow trout upstream.

Keuka Lake is also an important drinking water supply. This project has reduced the sedimentation to Keuka Lake as well as possible phosphorus contamination which could impact water quality, increase weed growth, and impair swimming opportunities.

Contact: Steuben County Soil and Water Conservation District, (607) 776-9631


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