State DEC releases 2018-2020 report on restoration of New York’s Great Lakes

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has released its 2018-2020 progress report on the restoration and protection of New York’s Great Lakes resources. The report highlights a number of projects in and around Rochester and the Finger Lakes designed to restore its waterways.

“The Great Lakes are an irreplaceable source of clean drinking water and support a wide range of opportunities for outdoor recreation that New Yorkers and visitors can enjoy all year round,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in a statement. “The New York Great Lakes Action Agenda continues to serve as an integrated action plan to promote these sustainable uses while also protecting water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and the communities dependent on these resources.

“The 2018-2020 report showcases how state, regional and local partners have worked together to protect our shared natural resources, contributing to an improved quality of life for the region and state,” Seggos added.

This map shows the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) project areas and Lake Ontario boundaries. (Source: DEC)
This map shows the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) project areas and Lake Ontario boundaries. (Source: DEC)

Significant achievements in the last two years statewide include:
• Restoring habitats and recreational uses for Environmental Justice communities within the Rochester Embayment and Buffalo River Areas of Concern;
• Adapting to storms and flooding by building back smarter and enhancing the resilience of Great Lakes coastal communities through the state’s $300 million Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, Resilient NY and other initiatives;
• Improving and protecting critical water resources in waterways that drain to Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to ensure waters are swimmable, drinkable and fishable; and
• Securing $19 million in federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding for 117 projects, complementing the state’s initiatives and commitment to restoring the shorelines of New York’s Great Lakes.

“New Yorkers along our Great Lakes coast know how essential the lakes are to the region’s sense of place and the wellbeing of our communities. The Department of State is proud to partner with the Department of Environmental Conservation and our state and local colleagues to help communities identify opportunities for growth and increased collaboration that will lend to the region’s tremendous potential,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “Over the past year we have worked hard to advance actions that will utilize our abundant access to the water, increase our resiliency to coastal changes and preserve the unique and special character of the region.”

The state’s Great Lakes Programs goals are guided by New York’s Great Lakes Action Agenda (GLAA) and integrate local, state and federal plans, goals and initiatives. GLAA encourages collaborative action and applies an ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach. Goals include restoring environmental quality; conserving and restoring natural resources; promoting resilient communities and sustainable development; building public stewardship and leadership; and promoting science-informed decision-making through ecosystem-based management.

In the area of restoring environmental quality, the Genesee River Coalition of Conservation Districts is successfully implementing the Genesee River 9E Watershed Management Plan, according to the report. Partners secured federal and state grants to promote soil health practices and developed a system to track agricultural best management practices, and estimate nonpoint source loading reductions across the watershed.

Within the Finger Lakes Region:
• In 2018, DEC researchers completed a Finger Lakes Water Quality Report;
• Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plans for Conesus Lake and Honeoye Lake were finalized in 2019, and the TMD for Cayuga Lake is being developed;
• Complex modeling and 9E watershed management plans are being developed for Skaneateles Lake, Canandaigua Lake, Owasco Lake and Seneca-Keuka Lake, with support from partners including the DOS;
• Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Action Plans are being implemented with various lake committees and academic partners throughout the region to improve water quality by reducing phosphorus and nitrogen loading; and
• Hundreds of volunteers have been trained in citizen-science techniques to help monitor and report HABs. All 11 Finger Lakes now have active monitoring programs.

In the area of promoting resilient communities and sustainable development, the report notes that in respone to extreme flooding and erosion that occurred in 2017 and 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s REDI program is providing $300 million in funding to support 132 shoreline resiliency and economic development projects identified by the impacted communities across eight counties along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

In 2018, the governor’s office announced $3 million in funding for Resilient NY Flood Mitigation studies to use advanced modeling techniques and field assessments within 48 flood-prone watersheds and identify priority projects that would reduce flooding impacts and ice jam risks, as well as improve habitat. Within the Rochester area that includes Irondequoit Creek in Monroe County and Honeoye Creek in Ontario County.

DEC’s Great Lakes Basin Programs Coordinator Don Zelazny said some 103 of the 124 total actions included in the 2015-2020 NYs Great Lakes Action Agenda have been progressed. The new five to 10-year agenda will aim to be inclusive, accessible and more reflective of the needs of diverse Great Lakes communities, especially those of environmental justice areas, he said.

The full report is available here.

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State to hold clean transportation listening sessions

cars highways city aerial-view-architecture-bridges-681335A number of state departments are seeking to engage residents and businesses through upcoming listening sessions on clean transportation.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Department of Transportation (DOT) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will host seven listening sessions in locations across the state to help advance a cleaner, safer and more reliable low-carbon transportation future.

The catch? None will be held in Rochester.

Still, for those interested in attending, two sessions will be held Aug. 16 at Erie Community College in the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville.

“The state Department of Transportation is pleased to be part of this effort, joining with other agencies and stakeholders to identify transportation enhancements that will facilitate economic growth and improve air quality for decades to come,” said DOT Acting Commissioner Paul Karas in a statement.

The clean transportation listening sessions are designed to engage stakeholders with diverse interests and concerns in a discussion of the economic and social considerations for deploying clean transportation options, opportunities to enhance environmental and public health benefits and how low-carbon transportation can enhance quality of life and boost economic competitiveness.

“In addition to our full commitment to fight the extremely irresponsible rollbacks proposed by the federal government, we are working with other states and key stakeholders to maintain our stringent emission standards, ensuring we continue to protect the health of New Yorkers while attracting the clean energy jobs of tomorrow,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, referring to the recent Trump administration rollback on automotive fuel efficiency standards.

Seggos noted that emissions from cars and trucks are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New York, amounting to more than one-third of the state’s total.

“This policy discussion is crucial to maintaining momentum toward the governor’s ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gases 40 percent by 2030,” Seggos said.

The listening sessions build on New York’s comprehensive, multi-agency clean transportation efforts to make electric vehicles (EV) more affordable and accessible. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a $250 million EV expansion initiative called Evolve NY. In addition to state funding, the program will seek to create private sector partnerships through 2025 to aggressively accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles statewide. Cuomo has said he wants to launch 10,000 EV charging stations by 2021.

“We have seen in New York an increasing number of consumers choosing cleaner transportation alternatives as part of the state’s comprehensive approach to tackling climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” NYSERDA President and CEO Alicia Barton said. “We look forward to working with interested stakeholders who have a commitment like we do to building a cleaner transportation infrastructure that will help preserve our environment for decades to come.”

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Finger Lakes sites receive grants

Letchworth State Park is one of four Finger Lakes Region sites to receive a state grant for restoration and enhancement projects. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
Letchworth State Park is one of four sites in the Finger Lakes Region to receive a state grant for restoration and enhancement projects.
(Photo by Velvet Spicer)

Four Finger Lakes parks and historic sites will receive grants from the state Parks & Trails New York to restore and enhance their facilities.

Statewide, 21 organizations dedicated to the stewardship and promotion of state parks, historic sites and public lands will receive $450,000. The groups raise private funds for capital projects, perform maintenance tasks, provide educational programming and promote public use through hosting special events.

“Across New York, volunteers are bolstering DEC’s work,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, in a statement. “From our new Campground Ambassadors program to longstanding trail stewardship efforts, volunteers are assisting DEC to protect natural resources and helping to connect more New Yorkers with nature.”

In the Finger Lakes region, four sites will receive grants:
• Friends of Ganondagan: $50,000 to fund the restoration and replacement of the Seneca Bark Longhouse roof;
• Friends of Hamlin Beach State Park: $15,740 to enhance the self-guided interpretive tour to educate visitors about the role Hamlin Beach State Park CCC/POW Camp played during the Depression and World War II;
• Friends of Letchworth State Park: $12,530 to fund a planning document along with two architectural project reports that will allow the Friends group to more effectively manage and fund projects that will move forward the ongoing effort to preserve the Civilian Conservation Corps legacy in the park; and
• Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park: $18,688 for the restoration of the Vinery Greenhouse.

The Park and Trail Partnership Program grants, funded through the state Environmental Protection Fund, will be matched by nearly $200,000 in private and local funding. The grants are designed to enhance the preservation and promotion of state parks, trails, historic sites and public lands, while increasing the sustainability, effectiveness, productivity, volunteerism and fundraising capabilities of not-for-profit organizations that maintain and support the sites.

“It’s inspiring to see the transformational effect of the Park and Trail Partnership Program grants and how they are enhancing the ability of Friends groups to make an even greater contribution to the stewardship of New York’s great outdoor spaces,” Parks & Trails New York Executive Director Robin Dropkin said. “These grant funds will enable groups to leverage more private and federal funding, marshal more volunteer power and augment the state’s historic investment in parks, trails and other public outdoor places.”

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