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The response to the WAVE Data Part 3 of 3

These winter months offer a great opportunity to examine the WAVE data: what it means and how it is being used. Within a month, we’ll open training registration and equipment loans for the 2016 WAVE sampling season. Before that begins, however, I want to highlight one more way WAVE data are being utilized.

In my previous posts this winter, I have highlighted NYSDEC programs that are using WAVE data and I highlighted groups who are using the data directly with their local communities to recognize and preserve healthy streams. In this entry, I want to highlight WAVErs who have made great efforts to improve impaired streams.

WAVE is a valuable tool for identifying healthy streams and flagging possibly impaired streams. For the latter, however, professional sampling is necessary to confirm impaired conditions and to understand the source of the impact.

The Oatka Creek Watershed Committee has sampled with WAVE since 2012. Members of the Oatka Creek Watershed Committee have collected over a dozen samples, most of which indicated “no known impact.” A few samples, however, indicated a possible impairment. In 2014, they attended a public meeting with the NYSDEC professional sampling staff and provided a list of stream locations that they were concerned about and felt deserved further investigation at the professional level. Some of these sites were WAVE “possibly impaired” locations and others were sites that raised their concerns for other reasons. Several locations were sampled by the professional staff in 2014. The chair of the committee, Peter Lent, in fact went to some of the sites with the professional staff to observe the sampling.

That being said, the Oatka Creek Watershed Committee has been engaged in water quality improvement efforts long before WAVE began. In 2006, the Committee joined with the Black Creek Watershed Coalition, the Town of Wheatland in Monroe County and the Genesee/ Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council to apply for and subsequently receive a NYS Department of State (NYS DOS) grant to develop watershed management plans for both the Oatka Creek and Black Creek Watersheds. Finalized planning documents were submitted to NYS DOS in 2014.

For this effort, they have utilized mutliple data sources and not only those from NYSDEC. In particular, this watershed planning effort has benefitted from SUNY Brockport studies that provided phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment sampling data from locations throughout both watersheds. The SUNY Brockport studies helped to identify the sub-watersheds in both Oatka and Black Creek which were experiencing the highest nutrient and sediment loadings and these areas have been given a high priority in the watershed management plans.

Next steps in this project will be to work closely with community members to make needed improvements. As Peter Lent says, “The effort that’s going to be occupying our time from here on out is getting out of the stream and sitting in meetings with municipalities.”

This is one example of how a team of dedicated volunteers can work with multiple programs to make watershed improvements. Other similar efforts are taking place across the state. Some of these are driven entirely by volunteers while others are coordinated by professional staff at local, county, or state government programs.

In conclusion, I really want to highlight that there are many levels of engagement in stream preservation and/or improvement. At the basic level, we are grateful to those participants who sample with WAVE simply to support NYSDEC programs. There are opportunities, however, to do more.

One simple step is to participate in the annual public meeting with NYSDEC professional sampling staff. This is your opportunity to highlight segments that you feel deserve further investigation. These meetings take place in May or June. I will announce the 2016 meetings to this list serve as soon as the dates are set.

For established groups, consider recording your accomplishments to inspire other WAVErs. I have been collecting these summaries and linking them to individual sites on the WAVE data map (

With that, I will close my examination of the 2015 WAVE sampling season. Keep a look out for posts about 2016 WAVE training registration, equipment loan opportunities, and the annual public meetings with the NYSDEC professional staff.

Alene Onion
WAVE and PEERS Coordinator, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12033
Phone: 518-402-8166 Email: wave

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