Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Green Infrastructure Planning in the Finger Lakes Region

Using Green Infrastructure to Manage Stormwater

rain barrel
A rain barrel, which can capture
rainwater from an impervious rooftop
and reduce stormwater runoff,
is an example of green infrastructure.

Like many waterbodies in New York, various forms of pollution affect those in the Genesee/Finger Lakes region. Stormwater is water from rain and melting snow that runs off into nearby waterbodies rather than soaking into the ground. This runoff collects debris, chemicals, sediment, and other pollutants as it flows over land and impervious surfaces. If left untreated, runoff will carry those pollutants into lakes, rivers, and streams where people swim, fish, play, and draw drinking water. Stormwater that flows into sewer systems can overwhelm the sewer, sending untreated waste into nearby waterbodies.

Unlike traditional grey infrastructure, which uses pipes to transport stormwater off-site, green infrastructure (GI) uses practices that mimic natural systems to manage stormwater closer to where the rain or snow falls. Some examples of common GI practices include rain gardens, green roofs, vegetated swales, bioretention areas, rain barrels, and pervious pavement. Green infrastructure can help manage stormwater runoff by removing pollutants and reducing the amount of runoff that ends up in sewer systems and local waterbodies. GI practices can be less expensive than building or expanding stormwater and sewage treatment systems to handle runoff. Green infrastructure practices also have a number of secondary benefits not associated with traditional treatment methods. Secondary benefits include aesthetic improvements, cleaner air, energy savings, urban cooling, climate change mitigation, and even crime prevention.

Project Overview

In 2009, the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council (G/FLRPC) received an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA or Stimulus) grant from DEC to identify opportunities to use green infrastructure practices to reduce stormwater runoff in the region. After identifying communities with stormwater runoff problems, G/FLRPC recommended specific new GI projects or retrofits to help manage the runoff, potentially reducing the need for the creation or expansion of treatment systems.

Because the use of green infrastructure practices to manage stormwater is relatively new, some types may not be compatible with local laws. After identifying possible GI projects, G/FLRPC evaluated the compatibility of the projects with the laws and regulations of the participating communities.

The information compiled for this project can be used by communities in the G/FLRPC region to: help make decisions about stormwater management and protection of water resources; meet existing stormwater regulations; and be ready to apply for funding to implement the GI projects as funding becomes available.

Project Status

G/FLRPC finished work on this project in February, 2012. Reports were produced for nine communities in the Genesee/Finger Lakes region. Each of the reports includes a list of potential green infrastructure projects for the community, along with an assessment of whether green infrastructure practices are compatible with local regulations.

G/FLRPC began by conducting a literature review of documents relating to green infrastructure practices. They also reviewed key watershed studies and reports for the region. After selecting a project consultant and identifying key partners to work with, G/FLRPC solicited participation from candidate communities.

Communities interested in participating in the project were prioritized in the following manner:

  1. Regulated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s)
  2. Municipalities in the Black Creek, Oatka Creek, Seneca Lake, and Keuka Lake watersheds - communities falling into this category were ranked based on development levels and impervious land cover
  3. Other communities within the Genesee/Finger Lakes region
Map of green infrastructure project participants in the Genesee-Finger Lakes region
Nine municipalities in the Genesee-Finger Lakes region were
selected to participate in this project. This map is from the
"Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development Evaluation and
Implementation Plan" reports, available on G/FLRPC's website.

A total of 9 municipalities in the Genesee-Finger Lakes region were selected to participate in this project:

  • Village of Churchville
  • Village of Dresden
  • Village of LeRoy
  • Town of Ogden
  • Town of Parma
  • Village of Penn Yan
  • Village of Spencerport
  • Town of Walworth
  • Town of Webster

After administering a survey to each of the selected municipalities to identify local water quality and quantity issues, available resources, and potential GI sites, G/FLRPC conducted field visits to each of the identified potential sites. To evaluate each site, G/FLRPC used the Center for Watershed Protection's (CWP) "Retrofit Reconnaissance Tool", a standard approach to identify and assess potential locations for green infrastructure stormwater facilities. As they developed a prioritized list of potential green infrastructure implementation projects and associated cost estimates, G/FLRPC used CWP's Code and Ordinance Worksheet to assess each project municipality's local laws and regulations with respect to green infrastructure.

bioswale conceptual design
A conceptual bioswale design from the Churchville "Green
Infrastructure and Low Impact Development Evaluation and
Implementation Plan" report, available on G/FLRPC's website.

Potential green infrastructure project inventories and assessments are included in the "Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development Evaluation and Implementation Plan" reports for each of the nine participating municipalities. The municipal reports include a brief explanation of the concept of using green infrastructure to help manage stormwater, followed by a summary of the findings of this project relevant to each of the municipalities. The reports are available on the Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development Evaluation and Implementation Plan web page on G/FLRPC's website (see the Links Leaving DEC's Website section on the right for a link).

Several municipalities, including Parma, LeRoy, and Penn Yan, have already used the results of this project to apply for funding through NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation's Green Innovation Grant Program to implement green infrastructure projects in their communities.

Final Progress Report

When each ARRA 604(b) project is complete, DEC requires a final report summarizing the entire project to be submitted. The report includes a description of the project's goals, work accomplished, and final project outcomes.

To view the final progress report for this project, click the following link:

Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development Evaluation and Implementation Plan - Final Report (PDF) (115 KB)

Regional Demographic Information

The Genesee/Finger Lakes region is located along the southern shore of Lake Ontario between Syracuse and Buffalo and extending south to the Finger Lakes. It is composed of nine counties: Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates. The region's 4,825 square miles encompass nearly 1.2 million people in 192 cities, towns and villages.

Contact Information


50 West Main Street, Suite 8107, Rochester, NY 14614