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Action Plan for the Chemung & Susquehanna Basins in New York

The Importance of the Chemung & Susquehanna River Basins

Schenevus Creek
The Schenevus Creek, a Class A
trout stream, is part of the
Susquehanna River basin.

The Chemung and Susquehanna rivers combine to drain 6,260 square miles of the Southern Tier region of New York State. The two basins cover portions of nineteen counties and are important resources for drinking water, fishing, recreation and farming. Water quality in the basins is generally good and many organizations, including the Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board (STCRPDB), are working to maintain current water quality and make improvements where possible.

Canisteo River valley
Much of the Chemung River basin is rural,
like the Canisteo River valley in the
northwestern part of the basin.

While water quality in the Chemung and Susquehanna river basins is generally good, problems do exist. Runoff from farms and urban areas, nutrients from household septic systems, and sediment from streambank erosion are all sources of pollution in the two basins. The region is also vulnerable to flooding, which can intensify other water quality problems.

In addition to being important to a wide range of stakeholders in New York, the Chemung and Susquehanna river basins form the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Nutrients and sediment from New York can move as far downstream as the Chesapeake Bay and, when combined with pollution from the rest of the Bay watershed, negatively affect water quality there.

Project Overview

In 2009, STCRPDB received a $285,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA or Stimulus) grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to create an ecosystem-based management plan for the Chemung and Susquehanna river basins. To develop the plan, known as the Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan (Action Plan), STCRPDB worked in collaboration with the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board (STERPDB).

New York State uses ecosystem-based management (EBM) to engage stakeholders in the development of plans for managing human activities that affect the state's environment. Before this project, no ecosystem-based management planning had been done in either the Chemung or Susquehanna river basins. The Action Plan fills that gap by soliciting stakeholder opinions and incorporating environmental, social, and economic values in an action agenda that outlines steps for protecting and improving the region's water resources.

The Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan will serve as a guide for residents, local governments, and interest groups, both inside and outside of the Susquehanna and Chemung river basins, who wish to be involved and take action toward protecting and improving water quality in these basins and downstream waterbodies.

Project Status

STCRPDB finished work on this project in February, 2012.

As part of the EBM planning approach, STCRPDB identified the following Key Issues in the Susquehanna and Chemung river basins:

  • Water Quality and Quantity

  • Economic Development

  • Land Use

  • Streams and Rivers

  • Flood Hazards

  • Runoff

  • Roads

  • Agriculture and Forestry

  • Plants and Wildlife

  • Outdoor Recreation

  • Education and Research

Working with a project Advisory Committee, STCRPDB developed draft goals and objectives for each Key Issue in the Action Plan and assembled watershed information and other resources related to each goal. The project Advisory Committee was composed of volunteers from around the region, and anyone interested in the project was welcome to participate. The Advisory Committee reviewed existing reports, data, maps, and plans as preparation for writing draft sections of the Action Plan.

Cover of the Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan
The Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan
serves as a guide for regional watershed
improvement and protection. The Action Plan
is available on STCRPDB's website.

Action Plan recommendations were developed in cooperation with stakeholders interested in each Key Issue so that the plan incorporates many points of view. Resources that support each Action Plan goal have been organized and made available on the Susquehanna-Chemung Data Atlas, an online Geographic Information System (GIS)-based data analysis tool, and on the Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan project website, with a separate page for each of eleven Key Issues (see the Links Leaving DEC's Website section in the right-hand column of this page for direct links).

Before finalizing the Action Plan, the Draft Action Plan was posted on the project website and distributed for review. STCRPDB and STERPDB informed the public about the Action Plan through a series of public presentations, press releases, and regional newsletter articles. After considering review comments and incorporating them into the draft, the final Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan was posted on the project website and distributed to Advisory Committee members and other stakeholders, some of whom added links to the plan from their websites.

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:

Susquehanna Action Plan for the Chemung and Susquehanna Basins in New York - Final Report (PDF) (122 KB)

What is Ecosystem-Based Management?

An ecosystem is a community formed by living things and the environment in which they live. Ecosystem-based management planning includes natural, social, and economic factors when developing a plan for improving environmental conditions in an ecosystem such as the Chemung and Susquehanna river basins. This type of planning recognizes that people are important parts of any ecosystem and that ecosystems are critical in supporting human life. The STCRPDB Ecosystem-Based Management webpage (see the Links Leaving DEC's Website section in the right-hand column of this page for a direct link) has more information about this type of planning, including examples of ecosystem-based management in the Mohawk and Hudson river basins, Long Island and Lake Ontario.

Regional Demographic Information

Covering 2,151 square miles and over 200,000 people, the STCRPDB planning region is comprised of three counties: Steuben, Schuyler and Chemung. This region includes the cities of Corning, Elmira and Hornell. The STERPDB planning region covers 4,796 square mile, over 440,000 people and six counties: Broome, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie and Tioga. This region includes the cities of Binghamton, Cortland, Norwich and Oneonta.

STCRPDB project logo: stone footbridge over a stream.
Project logo provided by

Contact Information


8 Denison Parkway East, Suite 310, Corning, NY 14830