Lower Chadakoin River
Restoration & Activation
Since the founding of Jamestown, its Chadakoin River has been a lifeline for the community – powering industry, providing clean water and nurturing healthy habitats for fish, wildlife and agriculture. These critical values still hold true today, but unfortunately, the arbitrary divider that is the Warner Dam has created in essence two different Chadakoin Rivers – the 0.9-mile upstream section of the river between McCrea Point and Warner Dam, which receives much attention, funding and interest, and the 3.5-mile section downstream from the dam to the Falconer village line, which has been ignored for decades. As a result, in its current state, the lower Chadakoin River poses a risk to human health and property, even though it could potentially be as much of an economic driver and a community resource as the upper section of the river.
In late 2021, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy developed a multi-year “Lower Chadakoin River Restoration & Activation” plan to address the many challenges facing this neglected part of the river, including:
· Downed trees, debris dams, severe bank erosion and unmitigated runoff
· Uncontrolled flooding, loss of property, depreciating property values and disinvestment
· An aging and failing infrastructure, such as crumbling retaining walls and orphaned water control structures/dams
· An abundance of harmful invasive plant species along the river’s banks
· A significant reduction in the river’s water quality and biological richness
In February 2022, the City of Jamestown awarded us $277,500 of American Rescue Plan Act recovery funds to implement Phase I of the project, which began in March with the clearing of accumulated logs and woody debris from the river channel and removing trees that are at imminent risk of falling into the river. In some areas, lumber had accumulated over many years, forming log jams that partially blocked the river and caused erosion, diversions in the river’s flow and flooding downstream. This work was completed in May by highly skilled arborists from Tactical Tree Services, who removed well over 150 dead standing trees from the riverbanks and hundreds of cubic yards of woody debris from the riverbed. With these obstacles now removed, this may very well be the first time in 50+ years that the Chadakoin River flows unobstructed through its original bed!
Stabilizing the Chadakoin’s hydrology was a critical first step towards mitigating flood hazards and reducing the risk of personal injury to anyone enjoying the river recreationally, such as for kayaking or fishing. Removing obstacles also allowed us to better assess the condition of the river’s banks and identify areas that are compromised and/or where erosion is taking place. Bank restoration concepts have been developed together with the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District for four sections of the river that are in urgent need of repair, and a NYS Water Quality Improvement Program grant application has been submitted requesting funding to restore nearly 0.75 miles of the river’s bank, implement resilient living shoreline principles that deploy native plants for stabilization, remove non-native invasive plant species and add native vegetation where possible.
While awaiting funding decisions, we are getting a head start on restoration efforts by pulling invasive plants and planting native shrubs and trees with help from Jamestown High School AP Biology students and volunteer crews from Cummins Jamestown Engine Plant. Even in these early stages of the project, the river is alive with progress!