Updated Cayuga Lake water quality report released

SENNETT — It's been more than 15 years, but the Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan has finally been updated.

Tee-Ann Hunter and Hilary Lambert presented the in-depth plan that was completed in March at the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency meeting Thursday. The report, which was prepared for the state Department of State with funding from the Environmental Protection Fund, details the characteristics of the 787-square-mile watershed and details projects that can be done to improve water quality.

The plan, which updates the 2001 plan and was largely worked on between 2015 and 2017, was created in close proximity to the Total Maximum Daily Load study of phosphorous lakewide. A Total Maximum Daily Load is the maximum amount of some pollutant that a water body can receive under the U.S. Clean Water Act. The state Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to release its draft plan for public comment sometime this summer.

Some of the goals specific to the watershed restoration and protection plan include remediating existing water pollution, preserving wetlands and open space to protect water quality and secure funding to implement some of the projects included. Other things the plan includes are challenges the watershed faces such as climate change, increasing extreme weather events and shifting political and economic priorities.

Now that the plan is released, Lambert said next steps are to communicate with the 47 municipalities that make up the watershed and see who may be willing to roll up their sleeves on projects. With three counties spanning the lakeshore — Seneca, Cayuga and Tompkins — and three more counties in the watershed — Tioga, Schuyler and Cortland — Lambert said it's like herding cats to get everyone on the same page.

Gwendolyn Craig gwendolyn.craig@lee.net
Jun 2, 2017