Cayuga Lake Watershed
Agricultural Committee
July 19, 2000 Minutes

Present: Craig Schutt Sherry Forgash John Terninko Steve Lewandowski Jim Malyj Lyn Odell Monika Roth Sylvia Hurlbut
David Zorn Janice Degni

The meeting was called to order at 10:15 AM by Craig Schutt, Chair.

Introductions of all present were made.

The purpose of the following discussion was to identify inconsistencies in the draft watershed characterization and to determine what action needs to be taken to ensure that the data presented will accurately represent the agricultural land use and concerns in the Cayuga Lake Watershed Management Plan.

The Committee reviewed the agricultural aspects of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Characterization, including the Primary Use and Land Classification areas. Dave Zorn briefly described how the land classification system works. Each tax parcel has a center point called a centroid. (See Map 2.12.2 in the preliminary watershed characterization for explanation of dots.) The assessor in each town sets the principal land use. There was a discussion on what determines the classification of agricultural land. Agricultural land is also broken down into types of use, such as field crops, for example. Dave Zorn said Seneca County uses satellite imagery to aid in determining ag. use. Lyn Odell asked if a dairy farm would be categorized as crop use. Dave Zorn said no, it would be as a livestock operation. Dave also said that aerial photos are used in determining land use but one of the problems with this method is that some of the photos used are older versions. Lyn Odell asked if cropland could outweigh livestock in some instances. Dave feels this depends on the assessors determination. Some members of the committee think the information is not very accurate. This committee needs to consider how this information will be used. One question raised was if it would be cost effective to take the extra steps necessary to acquire accurate data. Dave thinks that the existing data might be compared to the Digital Ortho Photo Quads to determine accuracy. This method would not cost anything. Dave Zorn will have an intern do this comparison. Sylvia H. mentioned that some identified cropland is vacant. Steve L. mentioned that this issue should be viewed in the long-term, such as a ten-year time frame. He feels it is important for farmers to understand what the ‘centroid’ on the maps mean.

Map 2.12.6 concerning mobile homes will be removed from the agricultural section.

Page 2-17 - the vacant land use will be clarified. The graphs used on this page will be edited for readability. Craig Schutt questioned the forest land category . Dave said the assessors’ data will be used to categorize this land use. Assessors have a specific format they follow when classifying forest land. This figure will show the percent of such land use in the entire watershed. Steve L. said that forest land has been undercounted in every instance he has seen. Monica feels there is a problem when using the assessment data. Craig explained the process used to classify forest land in the agricultural assessments. Only 50 acres are allowed and the remaining forest land is classified as ‘other’. Steve L. asked if any SWCDs in the watershed have proposed to conduct a GWLF (Generalized Watershed Loading Function , a Cornell program). This is a type of data-entry program. He feels that some parts of the watershed should be put into a data-entry program. Dave and Sylvia questioned what purpose the data would be used for. Steve explained the data would depict the impact of agricultural practices on Cayuga Lake, how to apply BMPs (Best Management Practices), and if monitoring was preformed, there would be a comparison of the impact from ag. and non-ag. Dave said that this process would require gathering data by crop rotation and would be very costly and labor-intensive. It would have to be done according to sub-watershed. Dave asked if the soils in Tompkins County were digitized. Steve said the soils do not need to be digitized, that the soils data can be obtained from existing soil surveys. Lyn Odell noted the Ag. Assessment worksheets. Steve explained how he does the soils data. Jim Malyj mentioned that he used the GWLF method about 10 years ago in one of Seneca County’s watersheds. Dave automated one of the GWLFs done in Seneca County. Craig mentioned that the Planning Department will digitize the soils in Tompkins County. Janice Degni asked if the digitized soils data is required for the draft lake management plan. Sylvia explained that funds are not available to do this. Steve feels if this method is not used, accurate data will not be available. He proposed using agencies such as the SWCDs to do the data entry for Cayuga Lake. The date of the aerial photos was questioned. Steve feels the impacts of agriculture are not sufficiently identified in the draft characterization. The GWLF could be done to move the process forward. Janice asked if the data collection segment might be made a part of the lake management plan. Steve stated that the GWLF deals with approximately 15 different land uses. Sylvia asked who would do the data entry work if it is decided to proceed with such. Steve felt someone at Cornell might be willing to do it and Craig suggested possibly someone within Tompkins County may do it. Sylvia would like an answer to this issue by the next committee meeting. Dave also feels that all the sub-watersheds should be digitized for land use. A Six-Mile Creek study has already been completed. Steve suggested doing a GWLF for Six-Mile Creek and comparing that data to the existing data. Sylvia asked Craig if there was someone at Tompkins County SWCD who could do this type of work. Craig felt Tompkins could probably do it. GWLF is a program developed by a professor at Cornell which can take raw data and estimate dissolved and total monthly nitrogen and phosphorus loads. It can also estimate streamflow for complex watersheds. There was a short discussion on using the Six-Mile Creek data as a model. Craig mentioned that the Tier I and II Agricultural Surveys have been completed on Six-Mile Creek.

Page 2-18- Livestock and Products , Craig would like to see Amish farms included in the land use category to ensure that they are accounted for.

Map 3.12.1 – there is a question on the type of symbols used on this map. They are too confusing to clearly understand and the symbol used for agriculture is similar to the symbol the NYS DEC uses to identify wetlands.

Map 3.12.2 – Each animal icon represents the number of animal units per type. Lyn Odell suggested that each farm may need to be visited for the animal units to be calculated. Steve suggested that the maps of each type of animal unit (dairy, beef, hog, sheep etc.) be shown on a separate map. He suggested removing the aquatic farms, fish, game and wildlife from this section. (See p. 3-13).

Monica Roth questioned the use of the title, “Agricultural Sources”.

Page 3-15, b. Phosphorus - One question raised was, “Is there a way to link phosphorus to erosion?” Some soil types are more vulnerable to erosion than others. Janice mentioned that the characterization is referring to the available phosphorus in the soil based on soil types. Steve said that a more in-depth discussion in the characterization concerning phosphorus would be helpful. Dave needs to know what kind of information on phosphorus should be included. The wording in the draft characterization describing the ability of phosphorus to move through the soil and into the watershed is a concern. The threshold will be different when “P” is based on soil pH. The statement made in the characterization about phosphorus, should be written in such a way that it ‘fits’ the situation within the Cayuga Lake Watershed. (There was a lengthy discussion on the wording on page 3-15, b. Phosphorus) USGS has phosphorus data.

Page 3-16-Animal Waste – The committee does not want this information to be misinterpreted. There was a short discussion on whether or not to keep the animal waste section in the ag. portion of the characterization. Dave Zorn has the Department of Health data.

Page 3-17, 3-19 – Pesticides – Steve mentioned the USGS studies. This data shows low levels. The atrazine detected in Cayuga Lake is below the EPA levels. He feels the results reported do not warrant making pesticides a high priority issue. He feels that pathogens, nitrogen and sediments should be a high priority issue in the agricultural section.

There was a short discussion on the acceptable levels of P and N. Levels should be able to support aquatic life. There was also a short discussion on the State-of-the-Lake 20-30 years ago as compared to today.

Craig mentioned that Kate Hackett has information from Cornell’s Lake Source Cooling Project that shows the P levels were higher than originally thought.

Steve said there is a permit request from the sewage treatment plant to discharge more phosphorus into the lake. In view of this request the question was raised, ”How can we ask farmers to change their farming techniques.”


If you have e-mail, please call the District at 607-257-2340 and the minutes can be sent to you via e-mail as an attachment. Thank you.

The meeting adjourned approximately 12:00 PM.

Respectfully submitted by,



Sherry Forgash
Tompkins County SWCD


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