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Owasco roadside ditch

One of the ditches surveyed on the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program's report of roadside ditches is in the town of Owasco on Melrose Road near Sucker Brook.

After creating manure management guidelines in March, the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency has now established a similar document for maintenance of roadside ditches. The documents aim to protect water quality by highlighting some beneficial practices for reducing pollution.

The guidelines are just that, with no enforcement or funding to help accomplish the suggestions attached.

However, with the help of county and town highway officials as well as staff from Cornell University's Local Roads Program, the pamphlet lists maintenance, design tips and other considerations the agency hopes local highway departments will use.

The WQMA passed the guidelines in November, and they are now moving through the Cayuga County Legislature. The body's Planning Committee passed the resolution adopting them Tuesday night. 

"The WQMA understands that it can be difficult for municipal road crews to improve management practices given limited budgets, heavy workloads, lack of suitable equipment, and inadequate space within the public right-of-way," the latest guidelines read. "But it hopes that the promotion of these guidelines will increase awareness of ditch maintenance issues among government employees and officials at all levels and lead to the creation of new cooperative approaches and the allocation of additional resources."

The Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program helped show the need for more attention to roadside ditches, after it completed a study of more than 100 in the watershed. More than half, the program noted, were considered a high priority to be stabilized. The inspection program has funding to help with some of those projects, but it is limited to the Owasco Lake watershed.

At the Planning Committee meeting Tuesday night, Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District Executive Director Doug Kierst said he thinks the guidelines will help raise awareness. The district, too, has received grant funding from the state for help with ditch and streambank stabilization. He encouraged towns and villages to get in touch with the district for help. 

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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County Government Reporter