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The Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration & Protection Plan

Tompkins Weekly     2-12-18

By Hilary Lambert

It is a challenge to unify the administratively complex Cayuga Lake
watershed for restoration, conservation, and protection. This 785-square
mile watershed includes:

• Three counties on the lakeshore (Cayuga, Seneca, and Tompkins) – and
smaller upland portions of three more (Cortland, Tioga, and Schuyler).
• 45 municipalities (cities, towns, and villages).
• Numerous regional, state and federal agencies.
• Development pressures that pull the south end toward the Southern Tier
and New York City; and the north end toward Syracuse, Rochester, and Lake

Communities across the watershed enhance economic vitality while protecting
the environment by working together. The Cayuga Lake Watershed
Intermunicipal Organization (IO) first developed a collaborative management
plan and planning process for the Cayuga Lake watershed in the late 1990s.
Its partners included the watershed’s 45 municipalities and county, state
and federal agencies. The original Restoration & Protection Plan was issued
in 2001 and can be viewed at the IO’s websit <>e
<>, with the accompanying encyclopedic Watershed

*New watershed challenges have arisen since 2001*

Since the first Plan was issued in 2001, challenges have arisen that
negatively affect water quality and quantity and the seemingly modest goal
of a sustainable, healthy watershed.

These include climate change and extreme weather, resulting in the need for
farmers and other producers to adapt; shifting patterns and seasons for
wildlife, birds, tree species, other plants and biota; and shifting
political priorities that stifle our ability to protect natural resources.

These changes affect human use and enjoyment of land and water and bring
with them new hazards, including invasive species, Harmful Algal Blooms,
large-scale energy development, drought, and emerging contaminants.

The surface water resources of the Cayuga Lake Watershed include wetlands,
streams, springs, waterfalls, creeks and the lake itself. The area is also
rich in groundwater resources. These waters are used for drinking, farming,
wine-making, cheeses, beers, liquors; recreation; industrial uses and
wastewater treatment; home and business uses; natural habitat for plants
and animals; to replenish depletion due to pollution, drought and overuse;
ecosystem functions, and other uses.

All watershed residents, visitors, businesses, and municipalities share and
benefit from these water resources. All share the responsibility of
protecting them.

*Updating the Plan: A public process, 2015-2017*

In 2015-2017, thanks to a Town of Ithaca-sponsored state grant, the IO and
Cayuga Lake Watershed Network (Network) joined forces to update the plan,
drawing in hundreds of people, dozens of agencies, and numerous experts to
update the plan and its recommendations for action to protect our water
resources. The 2017 Plan can be viewed at the Network’s website
<> under the “Watershed” heading

The 2017 goals of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan

To inspire, to prioritize actions and strategies, and to bring about
legislative change vital to protecting and preserving Cayuga Lake and its
watershed. By supporting this plan, the Intermunicipal Organization (IO),
municipalities, farmers, residents, private and public partners, and
watershed stakeholder nonprofit organizations can build a productive
economy which sustains a healthy watershed.

*Next-steps action*

A grant has been awarded to the IO and Town of Ithaca by the NYS Department
of State, supporting an IO staffer to develop water-protective,
state-fundable proposals with engaged municipalities. Under the leadership
of IO Chair Tee-Ann Hunter of Ithaca, a Watershed Summit is planned for
spring 2018, bringing together municipal officials, public works
departments, and agencies from around Cayuga Lake to encourage involvement
with the IO and new grant funding opportunities.

The new Plan is an excellent source for answering questions you may have
about the lake and its creeks. Check out the Table of Contents and peruse
such topics as Agriculture, Stormwater, Wastewater, and Water Quality
Education, among others.

Cooperation between municipalities and active citizen participation are
critical factors for the success of the new Plan, and for the future good
health of our lake, creeks, streams, springs, waterfalls, and wetlands.

*Hilary Lambert is the Steward and Executive Director of the Cayuga Lake
Watershed Network*

*If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives
of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles

Sasha Paris
Office Assistant
Sustainable Tompkins
309 N. Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Office phone: 607-272-1720 <(607)%20272-1720>

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