DEC and Finger Lakes Land Trust announce permanent land protection to help protect Syracuse’s drinking water quality

For release: Monday, August 8, 2022

The state’s Water Quality Improvement Program funds projects to help protect the Skaneateles Lake watershed

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) today announced the permanent protection of 234 acres at Casa Farms in the town of Niles, TN. Cayuga County, with a conservation easement. Funding for this project came from a larger FLLT grant of $1.6 million from DEC’s Water Quality Improvement Projects Program (WQIP). The property features nearly 6,000 feet of frontage on Hooker Brook, which empties directly into Skaneateles Lake, the unfiltered drinking water supply for more than 200,000 people in the city of Syracuse.

“Protecting water quality is a top priority for DEC and our land partners across New York State,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Our continued partnership with the Finger Lakes Land Trust on this project and others in the area demonstrates our commitment to protecting sources of drinking water and open spaces for residents and visitors to central New York.”

“This is great news for Skaneateles Lake,” said Andy Zepp, executive director of FLLT. “The conservation easement will help protect water quality while allowing for traditional agricultural use.”

Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements that permanently limit the future use of the land in order to protect the conservation value of the land. Land subject to conservation easements remains privately owned, listed on local tax rolls, and available for traditional uses such as farming and hunting. Through the establishment of this conservation easement, a buffer zone of natural vegetation along Hooker Creek has been established to prevent potential contaminants from entering the drinking water supply while allowing for continued agricultural use on the remainder of the area. the property. Permanently protecting this property with a conservation easement is a cost-effective way to protect Syracuse’s source of drinking water.

Casa Farms contains a mix of habitats including successional forest, shrubland, agricultural fields, and a hemlock and hardwood swamp. The property is located in the Skaneateles Highlands, an FLLT priority area which includes the Trust’s Bahar, High Vista and Hinchcliff Family Nature Reserves. It is also near Bear Swamp State Forest and Carpenter Falls State Single Area, owned and managed by DEC.

Working in cooperation with landowners and local communities, FLLT has protected more than 29,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped shorelines, rugged gorges, rolling forests and scenic farmlands. FLLT owns and manages a network of over 45 nature preserves open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 171 properties that remain in private ownership. Additional information about FLLT can be found on the Finger Lakes Land Trust website (leaves DEC website).

New York’s Commitment to Clean Water

The WQIP is a competitive reimbursement grant program that funds projects that directly improve water quality or aquatic habitat, or protect a source of drinking water. Under this grant program, CED has announced more than $60 million for 47 land acquisition projects to date. In addition to land acquisition projects for source water protection, WQIP grants are awarded for wastewater treatment improvements, non-agricultural diffuse source reduction and control, salt storage, restoration of aquatic connectivity and restoration of marine district habitat.

New York continues to increase investment in drinking water infrastructure projects. Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, the 2022-23 budget authorizes an additional $500 million in funding for drinking water infrastructure, bringing the state’s total investment in drinking water to $4.5 billion since 2017. In keeping with the Governor’s commitment to protecting New York’s wetlands, the budget also includes critical improvements to the state’s wetland protection program, saving approximately one million additional acres of unprotected wetland habitats and helping New York adapt to increased flooding and severe storms fueled by climate change.

Additional State Efforts to Protect Drinking Water Sources

DEC and the State Department of Health, in conjunction with the Departments of Agriculture and Markets and State, created the Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2) to help municipalities proactively protect their sources of drinking water. The state is seeking communities to work with a technical assistance (TA) provider, free of charge, to develop and initiate implementation of their drinking water source protection program. DWSP2 plans not only protect public health, but also surface and ground water quality throughout the state. To apply, visit the Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2) website and complete an online application. If you have any questions, contact the DWSP2 team at [email protected]

Photo by Casa Farms courtesy of Ryan Walters

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