Finger Lakes Initiatives
The Finger Lakes region of central New York is characterized by a dozen lakes whose watersheds include a variety of valuable natural resources, including water, fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands, and forest. The lakes and their watersheds are used extensively for agriculture, recreation, and tourism, highlighting the link between resource protection and the regional economy.
In an effort to foster cooperation on waterbody management and better guide efforts aimed at protecting and improving the water quality in the Finger Lakes, our office has encouraged communities to develop a planning process that is focused on watersheds and not political boundaries. Attention has centered on the local development and implementation of watershed management plans for Cayuga Lake, Conesus Lake, and Canandaigua Lake. Because the watershed plans must establish a consensus among state and local government on future actions needed to protect water quality, the completion of each plan involved an extensive outreach and education process. Currently, the collaborative effort concentrates on implementation, which is being overseen by a partnership comprised of the local governments within each watershed, state agencies, and advocacy organizations involved in lake protection.
Each of these plans includes three major sections:
The Department of State is working in partnership with the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council to assist implementation of these watershed plans. To address gaps in the implementation of best management practices for non-point pollution prevention, efforts are being made to develop or update specific local stormwater control laws and/or ordinances for municipalities within the Cayuga, Canandaigua, and Conesus Lake watersheds
Cayuga Lake is the largest of New York’s Finger Lakes, with an 800 square mile watershed spanning six counties and encompassing all or portions of 44 municipalities. The Watershed Protection Plan for Cayuga Lake, completed in 2001, identifies priority actions necessary to protect and improve the lake’s water quality. These actions primarily focus on reducing non-point sources of pollution, such as sedimentation from tributary streams in the southern portion of the watershed, runoff from agricultural uses, and road runoff.
Preparation of the plan was financed by Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grants awarded to the Town of Ledyard on behalf of all the watershed municipalities. Overseen by an organization including representatives from local governments, regional planning boards, and other groups, the work provides an important example of intermunicipal cooperation in watershed planning. Following completion of the plan, the Town of Dryden was awarded a grant under the Great Lakes Coastal Watershed Restoration Program for implementation projects on behalf of all the watershed communities.
Conesus Lake, located in Livingston County in New York’s Finger Lakes region, has a watershed encompassing seven municipalities. These local governments and other lake protection stakeholders have formed an intermunicipal committee to develop a Watershed Management Plan for Conesus Lake. Water quality issues identified for this waterbody include sedimentation, nutrient enrichment, bacterial contamination, and pesticide loading. The Department of State has provided financial assistance to this effort through the Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.
The Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council is coordinating implementation of its Watershed Management Plan, completed in 2001. Comprised of the 14 watershed municipalities and other stakeholder organizations, the Council is implementing priority actions including a Homeowners Integrated Pest Management Program and a model local ordinance for controlling soil erosion. The Canandaigua Lake Watershed Management Plan, as well as several implementation projects, was financed through the Environmental Protection Fund. In addition, the City of Canandaigua was awarded a Great Lakes Coastal Watershed Restoration Program grant for stream corridor improvements to reduce nonpoint pollution along Sucker Brook, a tributary stream of the lake.