A Brief History
The Little Hoosic Watershed Association was formed in 1953, primarily in response to and to help alleviate the threat of damage from floods. Floods as early as 1891 are recorded to have severely damaged the Watershed. Subsequent floods in 1927, 1938, and 1945 also caused extensive damage. The January 1949 storm was particularly devastating, with widespread damage throughout the Watershed.
The Rensselaer County Soil and Water Conservation District was officially formed in 1949. Oliver Hyatt was the leading founder of both the Conservation District and the Watershed Association.
In 1953, a comprehensive study was done to establish a watershed approach to the Hoosic River and its tributaries, including the Little Hoosic. The Little Hoosic Watershed Association was formed, and made a formal request to the Soil Conservation District for a study of the Little Hoosic Watershed. The survey was done in 1954.
In 1955, the first debris dam was built on the river, in Berlin. In 1956, two additional debris dams were constructed, one in Berlin and one in Petersburgh, and a clearing and snagging contract was let to clean up the river between Cherry Plain and Berlin.
Also in 1956, engineered designs for work from Cherry Plain to the Seagroatt Bridge were completed. The Watershed Association undertook the enormous task of obtaining easements from every landowner along this length of the banks of the river; easements, which were granted to the Rensselaer County Soil Conservation District, had to be in place prior to the start of work and to allow for on-going maintenance activities. By 1960, work had been completed on four major debris dams and channel stabilization along 4.2 miles of river from Berlin to Cherry Plain. The dams were designed by the Soil Conservation Service and constructed by contractor Quenton Baron of Mohawk, New York. The stated purpose of the dams was two-fold: 1) to slow down the fast flow of the river and 2) to gather the tons of gravel that normally flow downstream so that the gravel would not reduce the capacity of the river channel (when capacity is reduced, the river is more likely to overflow its banks). The Watershed Association assisted in these efforts by preparing, planting, and mulching all of the areas disturbed by the work.
In 1961, under the direction of the Soil Conservation Service, the approximately one mile portion of the river that runs through the town of Berlin was completely reshaped. It was widened and deepened, and cribbing was installed to control the river as it flows through the town. Concurrently, Rensselaer County undertook the redesign of bridges, so that greater water flow could be accommodated beneath them.
Projects since that time have included:
1961 through 1991: The Little Hoosic Watershed Association, together with representatives from the Soil Conservation Service, the Soil and Water Conservation District, and the State Department of Environment Conservation, performed yearly inspections of all of the structures. Through their Operation and Maintenance Funds, Rensselaer County provided yearly funding of typically a few thousand dollars for maintenance activities.
1970s: Some small Emergency Streambank Protection Projects were done by the Soil Conservation Service.
1980s through 1990s: Several Trout Enhancement Projects were undertaken by Trout Unlimited and the Soil and Water Conservation District/Soil Conservation Service, with assistance from landowners.
1984: Rehabilitation work was done on structures by the Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS).
1996: Rehabilitation work was done on structures by the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Town of Berlin using FEMA funds. All Sediment Basins were cleaned out using County Operation and Maintenance Funds. Additional work was done through NRCS, with the Town of Berlin as the sponsor, using the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
Around this time, as it became much more difficult to get funding for projects, the Association became less active.
The Association re-formed in 2007. The Association focuses on outreach, to assist landowners who are interested in performing work in the river or on the banks of the river in the Watershed. Annual inspections of the structures are performed. A Community Volunteer Day was held in 2009; on that day, extensive work was done to remove trees whose roots were either actively causing or at risk for causing displacement of cribbing in the town of Berlin.
Two back-to-back major storms in late summer 2011 caused extensive flooding. Several roads and bridges were washed out, requiring major repairs. The Association assisted the Towns of Berlin and Petersburgh by documenting damage caused by the river.
The contents of this History is a combination of excepts from the Rensselaer County Soil Conservation District’s 1950 – 1960 report titled Soil and Water Conservation. Ten Years of Progress and from notes prepared by Eric Swanson, District Conservationist in the Troy Field Office of the National Resource Conservation Service on March of 2006.