June 1, 2005

Fishkill Creek watershed plan is first strategy of its kind

By John Darcy

FISHKILL - How to protect the drinking water of thousands while boosting property values and ensuring economic health are the aims of a new plan to be presented Monday in Beacon.

The Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee will unveil its comprehensive plan at the Rivers and Estuaries Center, 199 Main St., at 6 p.m. The plan, in the works for two years, is the first of its kind for the watershed, said David Burns, watershed coordinator with the Dutchess County Environmental Management Council. A similar report and study was done for the Wappinger Creek watershed, he said.

A healthy watershed-land areas that drain into a network of streams, ponds and wetlands, which in turn feed aquifers and Fishkill Creek- has vital benefits, committee chairman Rick Oestrike said. He likened the interconnected waters to the circulatory system in the human body.

A protected and healthy watershed "automatically purifies large quantities of drinking water" along Fishkill Creek, he said.

Also, an "economic benefit" results when hikers, fishermen and "leaf peepers" drawn to the area. Visitors spend locally, which provides a "substantial economic benefit to the community."

Oestrike said the 190 square miles of land area in the watershed also provides habitat for a "wide variety of plants and animal wildlife." Another benefit of a watershed in "good condition" is increased property values, he said.

One thing that's very important is the need for a wide variety of people to work together" in the effort. They include watershed municipalities-Putnam-businesses and commercial interests, several county agencies and environmental groups. State funds are expected for intermunicipal aspects of watershed protection. Cooperation among municipalities would provide the structure for protection.

"Input is needed from all of these groups, and all have to cooperate if the watershed is to be protected," Oestrike said.

He said while it's important to think of the health of the overall watershed -"One area can affect another"-a disaster in one area does not mean disaster for the entire watershed.

Oestrike will recommend ways to enhance the natural resources of the watershed at the June 6 meeting. Fran Dunwell, director of the DEC's Hudson River Estuary program, will speak on how the Fishkill Creek project advances the goals of the river estuary effort. Biological status of streams in the watershed will be addressed by watershed coordinator Burns.

Tips on watershed care are available on the [Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee's] Web site, at [FishkillCreekWatershed.org].

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