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This "after" photo, taken in October 2012, shows the bench at the toe of the stream bank that prevents erosion at the Cave Banks project site. Grass grows on the re-graded bank, enhancing stabilization. (Photo submitted)

This "before" photo, taken in October 2011, shows severe stream bank erosion at Cave Banks that threatened homes and aquatic habitat. (Photo submitted)

The Cave Banks project site is hydro-seeded, promoting quick grass germination to hold the soil in place. (Photo submitted)

The bench was constructed by placing rubble on top of root balls at Cave Banks. (Photo submitted)


Cave Banks in Wells is fixed

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - Updated: 8:31 AM

By CAITLIN STEWART, Special to the Express

WELLS - When it comes to getting conservation on the ground, partnerships make it happen.

A 400- by 70-foot stream bank in the Town of Wells was saved because local landowners, the municipality, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District partnered together.

The bank had been eroding for decades due to powerful undercutting by the Sacandaga River. In 2011, Hurricane Irene accelerated erosion, causing 2,500 cubic yards of soil loss. The erosion threatened property and valuable aquatic habitat.

"That section of the Sacandaga River, known as Cave Banks, has been a major source of sedimentation to Lake Algonquin just downstream for more than 50 years," explained Supervisor Brian Towers. "However, it was not until the effects of Hurricane Irene that the bank eroded to the point of jeopardizing several homes."

Towers says the remediation project not only protects these landowners, but greatly reduces future sedimentation to the river and lake.

The sandy stream bank is on an outside bend of the Sacandaga River. When the river was undercutting the toe, or bottom, of the bank, sand collapsed from the top into the streambed.

This sand was washed into Lake Algonquin, where it filled in aquatic habitat important to critters like fish and insects. Houses and camps were in jeopardy of falling into the river.


SWCD staff assisted the Hamilton County Highway Department in the spring of 2012 in writing a successful Flood Mitigation Grant through the state Department of Environmental Conservation that brought over $300,000 into Hamilton County to aid six projects in the towns of Wells, Lake Pleasant and Indian Lake.

The grant provided funds for this stream bank stabilization project that included construction materials and equipment rentals.

Permits were obtained from the DEC, the Adirondack Park Agency and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Construction material was collected to build the bench, a flat section of land at the bottom of a stream bank that acts as a flood plain to absorb water before it hits the toe.


Town of Wells Highway Department staff collected and transported tree root balls to the site. Root balls were placed in the river and rubble was piled on top to act as a foundation for the bench.

The bank was then re-graded to reduce the slope and decrease erosion. District staff hydro-seeded the bank with high-test mulch specifically formulated for steep grades to stabilize the soil.

"This project was a perfect example of government agencies working collectively to benefit the environment and the larger community," Towers said.

The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District has been working to manage and promote the wise use of natural resources in Hamilton County since 1965. For more information call (518) 548-3991 or visit

Caitlin Stewart is a conservation educator with the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District.


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