Foxenkill and Switzkill Watershed Study

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY
Berne Falls, by Charles Sloger


Years ago NYS stocked trout in Berne; but that stopped because there is no legal public access. Not that it matters, since neither the Foxenkill nor the Switzkill are good habitat (both are too warm, and some pollution in the Foxenkill) to support a healthy population of trout. There is also a bank erosion problem. Planting of trees and shrubs along the banks would help prevent both bank erosion and cooling the waters for trout, as would establishing a cut line.


As part of the comprehensive planning process, the town of Berne should consider undertaking a Foxenkill and Switzkill Watershed Study. (The Town of Rensselaerville had a watershed study done during their comprehensive planning process.)


Advantages to the town is guidance on how to govern to best use and preserve the resource.

"The Study helps identify water quality, and other impairments and their sources. Once problems are factually identified, it is much easier to get resources and funding to design and implement fixes."

What a study consists of

A watershed study accumulates all of the technical and scientific data available about the watershed. That includes natural features, water quality, land use, human and natural impacts, flows. Much of the data exists in on-line and GIS data bases, such as geology, topography, soils, aquifers and water table, land cover, impervious surfaces, land use, and land use regulations. Other data was acquired from DEC files, such as SPDES permits (point source discharges), fisheries surveys, benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring, and periodic water quality sampling. Also educational institution studies and graduate student work.

Then the data is reviewed, summarized, and analyzed, then conclusions made as how to protect, preserve, and restore the stream and watershed. Recreational opportunities are also evaluated.


A typical consultant fee for a Study and Watershed Management Plan is over $100,000. However, the New York State Rural Water Association conducts groundwater studies for rural communities – often free due to receiving a federal grant for such work. The Onesquethaw-Coeymans Watershed Council received a grant for $36,000 to do the work. The result was the Onesquethaw - Coeymans Watershed Study (178 pages takes 1-2 minutes to load). However, at least half of the work was, and is being, done by volunteers.

Is it worth it?

Roy Lambert,, of East Berne and a member of the Onesquethaw-Coeymans Watershed Council, has this to say:

"If you can get volunteers and funding, watershed studies are almost always worth the time and money. It would take a group of people dedicated to the stream. A study helps identify water quality and other impairments and their sources. Once problems are factually identified, it is much easier to get resources and funding to design and implement fixes.

Water quality improvements involve things like the Berne sewer system, trees and shrubs along the stream, vegetation set backs, erosion control and bank stabilization, protection and re-establishment of wetlands, identification and correction of non-point source pollution such as farm runoff, storm runoff, and septic systems. The non-point pollution, especially agricultural runoff, is almost always corrected through volunteer participation in federal programs at no cost to the farmer or loss of rights."

An alternative

A Stream Management Plan may be an alternative, suggests Nan Stolzenburg, Planner.