June 8, 2005

Report urges action to protect Fishkill Creek

By Dan Shapley
Poughkeepsie Journal

BEACON Despite rapid development in recent years, much of the 193-square mile Fishkill Creek watershed has excellent water quality and abundant fish, including spawning brown trout in several tributaries, according to a new report.

That could change as development removes trees along stream banks, construction causes erosion and paved areas spew polluted stormwater runoff into the creek's watershed. Defunct dams, leaking sewage systems and toxic contaminants in groundwater are other problems that need to be addressed, the report concluded.

"If we're going to protect the watershed, for now and the future, we all need to work together," said Rick Oestrike, chairman of the volunteer Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee.

He suggested forming a council of local governments, similar to one working in the Wappinger Creek watershed, to act on the report's recommendations in cooperation with volunteers, businesses and landowners.

2 years spent on study

The 176-page Natural Resources Management Plan for the Fishkill Creek Watershed was unveiled Monday night at the Rivers and Estuaries Center in Beacon. The plan is the culmination of more than two years of scientific research about the creek and forming recommendations for its protection.

The Dutchess County Environmental Management Council and the committee produced the report, with money from the state Hudson River Estuary Program.

The 35-mile-long Fishkill creek runs from headwaters in Union Vale to the Hudson River in Beacon. It drains water from 338 miles of streams in 11 southern Dutchess municipalities and three Putnam County towns.

Beekman resident Cliff Schwark said the plan is a good step toward enlisting political support for protecting the creek.

"I think there are a lot of people in Beekman in support of this," said Schwark, who chairs the town's conservation advisory committee.

Fishkill resident Lucille Weinstat said the plan should be more aggressive by calling on towns to make their zoning laws more protective of the environment.

"If you're going to protect the water, you have to be concerned about zoning," she said.

A healthy watershed is needed to provide cheap drinking water and natural sewage treatment that otherwise costs millions of dollars to provide. It also provides recreation and wildlife habitat, Oestrike said.

Showing a photo of a pristine stretch of creek reflecting green from overhanging branches, he said: "I hope our grandchildren and great grandchildren will be able to go to places in the watershed and see sights such as this."

Copyright 2005, Poughkeepsie Journal. Reprinted with Permission.
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