Intermunicipal Organization is Formed -- Will Play Local Role in Development of Cayuga Lake Watershed Management Plan


SYRACUSE, NY -- An Intermunicipal Organization (consisting of municipalities throughout Cayuga, Cortland, Schuyler, Seneca, Tioga, and Tompkins Counties, as well as other various stakeholders in the Cayuga Lake Watershed) is being formed to oversee the and assist in the identification of present conditions and the shaping of recommendations for a Cayuga Lake Watershed Management Plan.

The formation of such a group continues the momentum toward establishing a watershed management plan for Cayuga Lake - the largest and most central watershed in the Finger Lakes Region.  Earlier in the year, the Town of Ledyard (representing all other interested parties in the region) received $65,000 in funding from the New York State Department of State's Division of Coastal Resources for the first year of a three-year project to develop a Cayuga Lake Watershed Management Plan.  The significance of having such a plan is linked to the 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, which specifically allocated $25,000,000 for water quality improvement projects to Finger Lakes municipalities that are included in a watershed management plan.  In addition, other funding programs increasingly require that applicants for funds be in line with existing watershed management plans.  In short, having a watershed plan in place is critical for local municipalities to be more competitive in tapping funding programs in their efforts to protect and enhance water quality.

According to Pam O'Malley of the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, (the agency designated by the Town of Ledyard as the Project Administrator for the effort), local ownership of the planning process and local acceptibility of the planning recommendations will be the most critical determinants of success.  "The Intermunicipal Organization" will be the local oversight body guiding the collection of facts and plan development, and ensuring that recommendations are acceptable to those living, working, and recreating in the watershed."

Municipalities are anticipated to comprise the largest representation on the Intermunicipal Organization, but other key stakeholders - such as county water quality coordinating committees, county economic development agencies, county agricultural organizations, countywide sportsmen's groups, state and federal agencies, legislators, academic institutions, and other interested entities - are also being sought to participate.   "We are hoping to generate as much local involvement and interest as possible, so the Plan reflects what people in the watershed perceive the issues to be and what they want done,"  said O'Malley.  The Intermunicipal Organization expects to convene for the first time in October.

The watershed planning process is is being done in partnership with and is supported by the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, the grassroots organization working for a healthy and sustainable watershed, which held the recent Cayuga Lake Festival.  "The Network and the watershed planning efforts are complementary - both having the ultimate goal of protecting the health and well-being of the watershed.  The Network's mission is leadership, cooperation and communication about watershed issues.  This planning process will let the local communities determine their own future," said John Fessenden, the Network's Chairman and a Cayuga County dairy farmer.

In addition to the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board (Project Administrator), staff providing technical and educational assistance to the watershed planning project also includes: Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County and the Cayuga Nature Center.

The Cayuga Lake watershed, or the land area that drains into Cayuga Lake, is 785 square miles and covers portions of six counties (Cayuga, Cortland, Schuyler, Seneca, Tioga, and Tompkins).  The watershed is an important, visible natural resource with significant economic, environmental and recreational value.  The development of a strong grassroots stewardship plan is critical to the future quality of life in the watershed and is necessary to qualify for Bond Act and other funding programs.

For more information, to share comments or to become involved in the planning process, contact the Central New York Regional Planning & Development Board at (315) 422-8276.

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CLW IO 2002