Lower Oswego River And Harbor Area Delisted
Download the Oswego River RAP Stage 3 Delisting report (PDF) (4 MB).
The Oswego River is one of 43 Great Lakes "Areas of Concern" for which Remedial Action Plans were developed in the late 1980s to address impairments to water quality based on the beneficial uses for all living organisms. As a result of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada and much hard work and cooperation, the lower Oswego River and Harbor is once again the crown jewel of the City of Oswego. The City of Oswego has revitalized the downtown area, the Port Authority has made many improvements, boating and fishing interests have grown, and water access and water quality have improved tremendously.
Great Lakes Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) are designed to identify the activities necessary to restore and protect beneficial uses by applying the fourteen use impairment indicators developed by the International Joint Commission (IJC). The RAP Process than identifies the sequence of necessary remedial measures and influences these events to address RAP goals and objectives. A Remedial Advisory/Action Committee (RAC) consisting of a diverse group of community stakeholders and citizens assures that the process responds to local interests and concerns.
For the Oswego RAP, impairments involving fish consumption, fish habitat and populations, and eutrophication and algae were identified. Through public participation, investigative studies, expert involvement and assessment efforts, we now know that pollution reduction activities to address hazardous waste sites, point and nonpoint water discharges, watershed best management practices, and local agency river corridor enhancement activities have addressed the indicators and beneficial uses for the Oswego AOC. Consistent with delisting guidance, the larger Lake Ontario Lakeside Management Plan responds to the fish consumption advisories, the FERC relicensing of the power dams responds to the fish habitat and population recovery, and eutrophication and algae characteristics have improved to a not impaired status. Nuisance conditions in isolated areas involving weeds and algae are managed to avoid impairments.
There is a true success story behind the preparation of the Stage 3 document (PDF) (4 MB) and delisting of the Oswego River Area of Concern. Historically, the Oswego watershed was a significant source of contamination. A water quality change from an image of garbage, sewage and pollution to that of becoming a focus of the waterfront community has been achieved. By representing stakeholder interests, the RAP Remedial Advisory Committee (RAC) has accomplished the community's recognition of the importance of this area as a natural resource and thereby encouraged others to act responsibly to restore and to protect the environment and the beneficial uses of the waters. The RAC stakeholders have identified, influenced, and observed the implementation of many supportive activities in the Oswego watershed.
For example, the City of Oswego has revitalized the river shoreline and downtown area, the Port Authority has made many aesthetic and pollution control improvements, recreational boating and sport fishing interests have grown, upstream hazardous waste site remediation has addressed downstream impacts, and water access and water quality have improved tremendously. The undertaking of a number of investigative studies and report review activities were initiated and accomplished by the RAP. The FERC power dam license provisions fully respond to the needs identified in the Fisheries Enhancement Plan for the Oswego River. The academic community has received research funding based on the AOC designation. Recreational interests have been protected and improved by the AOC designation and responsible agencies oversight.
The RAC has effectively implemented the application of the body of knowledge, that only an ecosystem approach can accomplish. As a result, the status of each of the Use Impairment Indicators has been resolved and an understanding has been achieved that a significant impairment and/or threat to the AOC environment does not exist. The conclusion is that the lower Oswego River and harbor area no longer warrant the AOC designation.
DEC, USEPA, and other agencies will continue to use the existing suite of environmental law and regulatory oversight to implement, monitor and enforce programs that protect the environment in and around the AOC. The presence of local area environmental groups, concerned citizens, and the agencies' purview provides a vigilance that assures beneficial uses will remain intact and that the riverine system will not revert back to impaired status.
The Executive Summary of the Stage 3 document (PDF) (4 MB) for the Oswego Remedial Action Plan is available for viewing on the DEC website. The report was designed specifically to focus on and address the resolution of the fourteen RAP use impairment indicators in detail. The data and strategies establish the resolution of the indicators. The delisting document includes appendices that list the RAC participants, details the evaluation strategy / criteria / endpoints, contains a responsiveness summary to concerns, summarizes the remedial activities contributing to the restoration and protection over the last fifteen years, contains the pubic involvement power point presentation, lists the FERC license provisions, and describes other RAP supporting activities including a list of references.
DEC Contact Information
If you have comments or questions, please contact:
Gerald Pratt, State AOC Coordinator
NYSDEC, Division of Water
Bureau of Water Resource Management
Albany, NY 12233-3508