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ENVIRONMENT

Updated Cayuga Lake water quality report released

Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency

Hilary Lambert, executive director of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, speaks before members of the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency on Thursday.

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. 

"This 2017 Plan combines an historic perspective with the functionality of a cookbook," it reads. Hunter, chair of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Intermunicipal Organization, and Lambert, executive director of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, said they hope their organizations and local municipalities can tackle some of those recommendations one by one. 

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. 

"We have an unwieldy watershed," Hunter added. 

One project Cayuga County may soon tackle is an approximately 27-acre patch of hydrilla found in the village of Aurora. Hilary Mosher, program coordinator for the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, said she still does not have funding to eradicate the invasive species, but she and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be monitoring for new growth every two weeks. 

Cayuga County Legislature Chairman Keith Batman said last month that he would be convening a special Legislature meeting to potentially vote on providing funds for that work. Mosher said the minimum amount she is requesting for one year's worth of treatment is $140,000. 

For more information on the Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan, visit cayugalake.org

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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