The Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan (RPP) process began in 1998 with the creation of the Cayuga Lake Intermunicipal Organization. The central focus from the beginning of the process was to identify priority issues and solutions on a watershed-wide basis and have all of the local governments and organizations in the watershed agree on the priorities and work together to access funding in order to implement the recommendations of the RPP.
The first step in the process was an assessment of current socio-economic and ecological conditions of the Cayuga Lake Watershed. The data collected in this assessment was published in September of 2000 in the Cayuga Lake Preliminary Watershed Characterization. In this report both the current understanding of the state of the watershed and the history and status of the watershed management planning process were explained.
Once the current state of the lake was analyzed, step two was to determine the desired future of the watershed. Based on input gathered from several IO and public meetings, it became clear that interested citizens wanted the watershed to remain a source of drinking water, a recreational and aesthetic resource, with public access to the lake and plenty of open space, while supporting a diverse and sustainable economy.
The third step was to identify and prioritize threats to the water quality of the watershed. In order of importance, as determined through meetings with the general public as well as the IO, the top seven threats identified (in ranked order) were agricultural practices, sediment loading, drinking water, water quality standards, development practices, stormwater runoff, and on-site wastewater systems. The primary sources of pollution identified in the watershed (in order of importance) included sediment, phosphorous, pesticides and fertilizers, organic compounds, heavy metals, pathogens and exotic organisms.
Next an inventory of current pollution controls highlighted methods being used, who is responsible for implementation and cost, how institutional measures are applied, and how feasible these controls are specifically for the Cayuga Lake Watershed. To finalize the groundwork for the RPP it was important to acknowledge that there are gaps in water quality and quantity monitoring data and limitations in funding both restoration and protection of our water resources. In addition, there is a clear need for watershed-wide public education, economic sustainability, pollution regulation and enforcement, and increased incentives for voluntary action.
Based on current water quality threats and pollution control methods, eleven strategies or action categories were identified in the RPP. They include the following:
Tables for each of the eleven action categories in the RPP provide specific recommendations for what actions could be taken, the organizations that could be involved, possible measures and targets to follow, and approximate cost for each activity. The main purpose of these tables is to serve as a watershed management manual for municipalities, community groups and citizens interested in taking an active role in the restoration and protection of the Cayuga Lake Watershed. To prevent the watershed management plan from becoming mainly regulatory, communities and citizens are encouraged to take responsibility for their part of the watershed through "actions and deeds" and get involved in the watershed-wide process. As time progresses, more and more of the water quality threats and issues identified in the RPP will be addressed and new or previously unidentified issues will require an evaluation and revision of the RPP itself to reflect new information collected in the ongoing monitoring and assessment program. The revised RPP may cause a shift in management priorities as we further restore and protect our water resources and strive toward meeting our watershed goals.
While implementation has been going on prior to, and during the development of the RPP, it is suggested that coordinated implementation will be driven from, and by, the collective energy of the RPP. The institutional structure for implementing the RPP will be the IO. A strategy for that structure is being developed concurrently with this plan and will be functional by October 2001.
An Evolving Plan
The planning process preceding the actual production of this plan is important to understand. It includes an organizational structure that is founded in coordination, collaboration and partnerships, and understanding of nonpoint source pollution and the use of a watershed approach.
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CLW IO 2004