Watershed Plan Case Study

Finger Lakes Watershed

Cayuga Lake Watershed Intermunicipal Organization

The Cayuga Lake Watershed Intermunicipal Organization (IO) is an example of a successful watershed group in the Finger Lakes Region. The group has brought together representatives from 44 municipalities and 6 counties, State agencies, and non-governmental organizations, to address the preservation and restoration of the Cayuga Lake watershed.

Key to the success of the IO was the collaboration of municipalities and community-based organizations in the planning process. Community involvement in the form of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, a nonprofit citizen network interested in protecting and improving the lake’s water quality, was a source of important information on the watershed and also an important source of volunteers for implementing the resulting watershed plan.

The Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan provides a framework for collaborating and implementing on-the-ground projects. The restoration of Six Mile Creek, a large tributary to Cayuga Lake, is one example of a successful effort involving the Cayuga Lake IO. Each member has played an integral role in one or more project components, including funding, coordination, site assessment, construction, vegetation planting, and outreach.

The Cayuga Lake IO has shown how watershed intermunicipal organizations serve as a forum for local governments, state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the public to address complex watershed issues in a coordinated manner and gain consensus on actions needed to protect and restore a watershed. With these partnerships, the IO has been able to restore and protect the water quality and natural resources of Cayuga Lake.

This case study appears in Chapter 2 of the Watershed Plans: Protecting and Restoring Water Quality Guidebook.

Assessing Local Capacity

The Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council has worked with municipalities in the Cayuga, Canandaigua, and Conesus Lake watersheds to assess the current capacity of local ordinances and practices for water quality protection. The Council assessed existing local water quality controls in each of the 56 municipalities in these three watersheds. The assessments provided insight into the gaps between existing watershed plans and the current controls, e.g., laws, regulations, and practices that municipalities have to protect water quality.

Thirteen municipalities were then selected to incorporate elements of the watershed plans into their regulatory framework by developing new laws and revising existing laws. One result of this process was the development of the guidance manual Protecting Water Resources through Local Controls and Practices: A Manual for NY Communities. The manual offers a methodology for identifying local controls and other practices to protect water quality and assess their effectiveness.

The manual walks the reader through the process of a municipal nonpoint assessment and gap analysis and provides, as samples, local laws that have been adopted in some communities, including an environmental protection overlay district, subdivision regulations, wetlands and watercourse protection, and onsite wastewater treatment system regulation.

More information on the Municipal Nonpoint Assessment is available through the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council.

This example appears in Chapter 3 of the Watershed Plans: Protecting and Restoring Water Quality Guidebook.

A Watershed Organization that Passes Down the Funding

The Finger Lakes / Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance (FLLOWPA) implements a program called the Special Projects Fund, which provides small grants for projects that advance the goals of watershed management. Projects must be sponsored by a member county and collaborative projects are encouraged. FLLOWPA funds have supported stream bank stabilization, habitat protection, invasive species management, water quality monitoring, and education and outreach projects throughout the watersheds of New York’s Lake Ontario basin.

The FLLOWPA Special Projects program awarded $10,000 for research focused on controlling Eurasian waterchestnut populations in the Seneca Oswego Oneida River System.

This example appears in Chapter 6 of the Watershed Plans: Protecting and Restoring Water Quality Guidebook.

Updating the Watershed Management Plan

The 2005-2009 Strategic Update of the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Plan includes a description of projects that have been implemented since completion of the original plan in 1999. Some of these successes include streambank restoration on Naples Creek, obtaining grant funding for a sewer extension project in Ontario County, a wetland creation project in the Town of Canandaigua, and obtaining funding for a major dredging project along Sucker Brook to clean up contaminated sediments. The updated plan looks ahead to future projects in research, education, restoration/protection and regulation.

This example appears in Chapter 6 of the Watershed Plans: Protecting and Restoring Water Quality Guidebook.

Development of the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan

The Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan was developed over a three-year period from 2001 to 2004. During this time, County planners worked with municipalities and integrated goals and projects from many existing planning documents throughout the county. Many of the objectives listed in the natural resources section of the comprehensive plan mimic the watershed plan in promoting stream buffers, water quality monitoring, and inspections and maintenance of onsite wastewater treatment systems. Referencing the watershed plan within the comprehensive plan creates consistency between the two and provides formal County adoption and support for these action items. The Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan was formally adopted on December 21, 2004 by the Tompkins County Legislature. www.cayugawatershed.org

The Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan incorporates objectives outlined in the Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan.

This example appears in Chapter 6 of the Watershed Plans Guidebook.