Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan

Background and Description

Background:Cayuga Lake is located in the central portion of the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, between Seneca and Owasco Lakes. There are portions of six counties and 50 municipalities in the watershed. Over half of the 120,000 watershed residents get their drinking water from the Lake, and many more tap other surface waters as well as groundwater sources in the watershed. Local agri cultural and tourism industries are based on the quality and quantity of water in the watershed.

Restoration and Protection Plan:A watershed restoration and protection plan is critically needed for the Cayuga Lake watershed. The plan will comprehensively identify water quality problems and solutions. It will make recommendations to restore, protect and enhance the water resources in the watershed – and thereby, protect public health, the economy, and the quality of life in the watershed. It will make the watershed more competitive in vying for funding to address water quality problems, and will promote cost-savings for all levels of government through the Intermunicipal cooperation that will be fostered.

Water Resource Impairments and Issues in the Watershed: The NYSDEC 1996 Priority Waterbodies List identifies Cayuga Lake and its tributaries as cumulatively having impairments to water supply, fishing, fish propagation and survival, aesthetics, boating and bathing. Associated pollutants include nutrients, sediments/silt, oxygen demand, pesticides, thermal changes, water level/flow, pathogens and unknown toxicity. Sources of those pollutants include streambank/roadbank erosion, agriculture, construction, urban runoff, septic systems and stormwater. A local grassroots watershed group, the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network has also identified issues such as noise, road salts, zebra mussels/exotics, giardia, lack of scientific data and lake access. All of these issues have a significant environmental, social and economic impact on the watershed, including loss of water quality, aquatic habitat and economic growth.

Project Description: Through the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, NYS Department of State (DOS) has awarded funding to the Town of Ledyard (Cayuga County) – the municipal sponsor – for the first two years of a three-year project to prepare a Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan. The planning project advances intermunicipal efforts to resolve shared water resources issues.

Municipal stakeholders in the watershed participate directly via the"Intermunicipal Organization" (IO) to ensure that plan development is locally driven. The IO is the foundation for municipalities within the watershed to cooperate, save tax dollars, share services and protect the greatest natural resource the watershed has – Cayuga Lake. Through this organization municipalities can come to a common table to solve problems, plan for the future and avoid misunderstandings within the watershed. The IO mission statement is: To create, modify, and implement a watershed restoration and protection plan to allow local governments within the watershed to work together for the purposes of accessing dollars, cost savings, cost sharing, and efficiency of activities among municipalities. This plan when completed will prioritize water quality problems and solutions. The Intermunicipal Organization will provide direction for the regional planning boards and other staff, and oversee the entire project.

Non-municipal stakeholders are involved through IO committees, the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, and a variety of public participation, education and outreach activities.

First-year tasks, which commenced in April 1998, are:

  • Project administrator designation and project/contract administration;
  • Intermunicipal Organization formation and support;
  • technical scoping and draft plan preparation (watershed and subwatershed delineation, characterization of existing water quality problems and causes, and collection of information on the regulatory and programmatic environment);
  • public participation meetings;
  • ongoing public education; and
  • preparation of an interim list of implementation activities eligible for Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act funding.

Second-year tasks will follow in line from first-year tasks. They are:

  • Support of the Intermunicipal Organization (constitutes the 2nd-year public participation activities);
  • ongoing public education;
  • draft plan preparation (continued characterization of projected water quality problems and causes);
  • preparation of an interim list of implementation activities eligible for Bond Act funding; and
  • project/contract administration.

Third-year tasks will be:

  • Support of the Intermunicipal Organization;
  • completion of the draft plan (analysis of the regulatory and programmatic environment, identification/ evaluation/ranking of potential nonpoint source management actions, selection of management recommendations including management practices, integration of land use plans, capital projects, and point and nonpoint source controls, and prioritization of restoration and protection recommendations);
  • public participation meetings;
  • ongoing public education;
  • completion of the final plan; and
  • project/contract administration.

Additional Funding Commitments: Matching funds are being provided by the Empire State Development Corporation for first year activities. Funding from private foundations obtained on behalf of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network are supporting the effort by providing information needed in the project’s first year, such as stakeholder identification, brochure information development and issues identification. Further, matching funds from agencies staffing the effort have been committed.

Additional Needs: During the first year, additional project needs have been identified beyond the NYS DOS workplan that will strengthen the overall watershed planning process such as the digitization of land use and soils coverages, water quality sampling and monitoring, watershed modeling, and additional education, outreach and public participation. Funds for these important activities are being sought.

Relationship to the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network: This watershed planning process is being done in partnership with the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, a grassroots organization working for a healthy and sustainable watershed. The Network and the watershed planning efforts are complementary – both having the ultimate goal of protecting the health and well-being of the watershed – yet separate. The Network mission is leadership, cooperation and communication about Cayuga Lake Watershed issues. The planning effort is concerned with developing the Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan. This planning process ensures that the local communities determine their own future. The Network supports this planning process and the Intermunicipal Organization. The Network will work with the planning effort on communication, coordination, and information dissemination about the planning process.

Project Staffing: To date, paid staff for the project include the Central New York Regional Planning & Development Board, Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County, the Cayuga Nature Center and EcoLogic. As the municipal sponsor, the Town of Ledyard continues to play a substantial organizational role in the project. There has also been significant volunteer effort.


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CLW IO 2004