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Work Along Chadakoin River Continues Into New Year

This article, written by Eric Tichy, was originally published in the The Post Journal newspaper and on on 1/23/2024 and has been (re)posted here with permission.

Efforts to bolster the Chadakoin River in Jamestown are well underway this year.

“We’re actually making great progress,” said Twan Leenders, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy director of conservation.

Together with the Chautauqua Soil & Water Conservation District and the city of Jamestown, the conservancy has focused on river cleanup and bank stabilization. That has included the removal of debris, such as trees and other impediments, from the water.

Work has been funded through hundreds of thousands of dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated by the city. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy continues to seek grants, using ARPA funds as leverage for possible matching funds.

“We’re trying to be proactive here. We’re trying to minimize the damage,” Leenders said of the recent work that’s taken place. “We’re trying to avoid moving lots of sediment. We’re trying to avoid having large holes in the bank that could potentially undercut the path or even take parts of the path with it.”


Most recently, Leenders said, work has focused on shoreline stabilization near the train station toward the Main Street bridge. He said some sections of the riverbank have been “severely undercut” due to the Warner Dam and the way it’s used to maintain Chautauqua Lake water levels.

He said work has been complicated by numerous trees that have been growing on the riverbank that are either dead, dying or are invasive to the region.

“The ones that were doing well were doing too well — didn’t belong here and were gradually taking over,” Leenders said.

He alluded to the presence of the black locust tree, which he said “grows where nothing else grows.”

“It’s some of the hardest wood around. It doesn’t really rot,” Leenders said. “So we’re leaving the roots in place. They won’t really rot away. We had the concern that if we would remove those, it would destabilize the bank even more.”

He added, “We tried to just kind of minimize the impact on the actual bank.”

Crews have placed several large rocks in front of the bank. Leenders said the rocks will protect the riverbank from the undercutting that has been taking place “for the last however many decades.”

Leenders has provided several updates on their progress to members of the Jamestown City Council. He last spoke to the council during a September meeting, where he requested additional funding for Phase 2 of the restoration project.

At that meeting, Leenders said there were about 120 trees that “require our attention” in the form of trimming and pruning. He further said there were more than a dozen trees that were already creating issues and needed to be removed.

Additional funding, Leenders told the council, also would go toward a new round of herbicide treatment and removal of the tree of heaven to limit the threat of the spotted lanternfly.

Part of the conservancy’s mission is to establish a “living shoreline” of plants and rocks. Plants and other vegetation are scheduled to be installed in late May or early June; the plants are already on order.

Recent work at the river has targeted problematic trees.

“The bigger concern I had was that if any of the trees would fall over with the roots still in place,” he said. “Because they were undercut, every one of these trees — even just leaning into the basin — would have left a truck-size hole in the bank, which would have just made the repairs just that much more expensive and extensive.”

Efforts at the river also have provided the crew with a bit of a history lesson. Leenders noted the former building foundations still visible where factories once stood over the river. He said the flowing water often was used for the disposal of materials and waste.

“The Chadakoin River has always been the economic driver for the city of Jamestown,” Leenders said. “I just love the idea that the Chadakoin River would still become an economic driver of the city of Jamestown, but in a very different way than historically.

“It’s not so much powering factories, or becoming a garbage disposal, or a way to move logs to sawmills for the furniture industry. Giving what the world’s doing with environmental changes and climate changes to not just think of the river as something that’s just there and ignore it.

“I think if we develop it right, it’ll have such a great impact on the community. Even if you’ve never walked the Riverwalk, you still benefit from the clean water that it’s providing.”

(photo of an excavator near the Warner Dam by Eric Tichy)


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