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The very first Home Rivers Initiative was started in 1994 on the Beaverkill River and Willowemoc Creek, considered to be the birthplace of American fly fishing. Commonly referred to as the “Beamoc” watershed, it is seen by many as a national treasure for its aesthetic appeal and deep history. Today it continues to play a prominent economic role both locally and regionally. In response to local concern over a perceived collapse in trout populations in the middle and lower sections of the Beaverkill, Trout Unlimited secured funding and started the Beaverkill-Willowemoc Watershed Initiative (“Beamoc Project”). Fish declines had occurred before, notably in the early 1980s, and were associated with prolonged drought periods or possibly changes in stocking practices. The length and severity of the population collapses of the early 1990s created public concern and drew media attention. The primary goals of the Beamoc Project were to investigate the sources of population stressors; identify existing or potential sources of resilience to stress; identify cost-effective restoration and protection strategies; communicate findings and build consensus for watershed protection and restoration; and begin to implement the identified activities. View results and recommendations from Trout Unlimited's watershed study on trout habitat in the Beaverkill-Willowemoc watershed.
TU’s watershed assessment and restoration efforts through the Beamoc project continued through 2002. Some of the major accomplishments of the project include:
- TU commissioned an Economic Impact Assessment of the Beaverkill-Willowemoc Trout Fishery (Tyrrell et al., 1995) which demonstrated that trout fishing on the Beamoc is a valuable resource for the local economy contributing between $9 and $10 million a year, even during a year when angling activity was down because of depressed fish populations.
- TU cooperated with the USGS on groundwater and other flows studies that confirmed the system’s unique qualities and helped identify potential stressors. The Beamoc has excellent groundwater discharge, with the highest mean annual discharge and best base flow when compared with 11 other area streams. However, analyses showed that floods have become both larger and more frequent in the past 80 years. Road building and other development in the area are likely contributors to this trend, but the development of Route 17 is clearly associated with an up tick in flooding. Other water quality and macroinvertebrate monitoring showed that water quality is generally excellent throughout the system, although there are some impacts from road salt and the related anti-caking agents.
- TU worked with the NYS Dept. of Transportation (DOT) on a stormwater retrofitting program to reduce the rate of run-off and improve infiltration along Route 17. DOT was remarkably responsive to TU’s concerns and datasets, and the agency has spent approximately $5 million to retrofit the system in part by installing stone lined ditches designed to slow, filter, and cool storm runoff and encourage infiltration.
- A telemetry study to track trout migration in the Lower Beaverkill and East Branch helped identify spawning and thermal refuge areas and showed that wild fish moved more extensively particularly during times of high water temperatures. It strongly underscored the importance of a healthy tributary system. The study was funded and performed by volunteers, students and staff from NY Council of TU, NYS DEC, State University of NY, and TU National.
- Geomorphic assessment and substrate analysis of the Beamoc system helped determine stream characteristics and sources of channel instability. The study showed that tributaries provide critical thermal and habitat refuges for fish during drought periods and documented loss of suitable trout habitat in the Lower Beaverkill.
- TU and partners implement numerous tributary and mainstem restoration projects have taken place, most notably on Darbee Brook, Horse Brook, Horton Brook, Mountain pool, and Horse Brook Run to name but a few.
Although the Beamoc Project has formally concluded, TU remains active in the region in flood mitigation planning, flood response and in several related stream and floodplain restoration projects with its partners.