Areas of Concern
Areas of Concern (AOC) are geographic areas around the Great Lakes that are environmentally degraded. In 1987, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement designated 43 AOCs as a way to focus restoration work on these areas. Of the 43 AOCs, 26 are in the U.S., 12 are in Canada, and 5 are shared by both countries.
Map of New York's Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
Click link at left to download a detailed PDF version of this map.
Areas of Concern in New York
Six Areas of Concern were designated in New York:
- Buffalo River
- Eighteenmile Creek
- Rochester Embayment
- Oswego River/Harbor *
- Niagara River
- St. Lawrence River at Massena
* The Oswego River/Harbor AOC was delisted in 2006, leaving five active AOCs in New York.
A map of New York's Areas of Concern (PDF, 677 KB) is available for download.
Restoring New York's Areas of Concern
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement outlines the process for restoring Areas of Concern. The process involves developing a Remedial Action Plan to address Beneficial Use Impairments in each AOC. A Remedial Advisory Committee was established for each AOC to assist the restoration process.
Remedial Action Plans
All AOCs have a Remedial Action Plan that identifies specific problems and outlines the work needed to restore, or delist, the AOC.
Remedial Action Plans are developed in three stages:
- Stage I identifies specific problems, called Beneficial Use Impairments, and sources of pollution.
- Stage II lays out proposed restoration actions and a plan for implementing those actions.
- Stage III provides documentation that all Beneficial Use Impairments in an AOC have been addressed and that the AOC is ready for delisting.
In 2012, each of the five active New York AOCs updated its Stage II Remedial Action Plan:
- Buffalo River Stage II RAP Addendum (PDF, 201 KB)
- Eighteenmile Creek Stage II RAP Addendum (PDF, 1.71 MB)
- Rochester Embayment Stage II RAP Addendum (PDF, 64 KB)
- Niagara River Stage II RAP Addendum (PDF, 64 KB)
- St. Lawrence River at Massena Stage II RAP Addendum (PDF, 74 KB)
Beneficial Use Impairments
Specific problems in each Area of Concern are called Beneficial Use Impairments. There are 14 possible Beneficial Use Impairments for any AOC:
- Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption
- Tainting of Fish and Wildlife Flavor
- Degraded Fish and Wildlife Populations
- Fish Tumors or Other Deformities
- Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems
- Degradation of Benthos
- Restrictions on Dredging Activities
- Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae
- Restrictions on Drinking Water Consumption or Taste and Odor Problems
- Beach Closings
- Degradation of Aesthetics
- Added Costs to Agriculture or Industry
- Degradation of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton Populations
- Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat
Each AOC's Remedial Action Plan describes the causes of Beneficial Use Impairments and actions needed to restore those uses.
Remedial Advisory Committees
Each AOC has a Remedial Advisory Committee (RAC) that represents the local community and assists the restoration process. RAC members provide input and direction for the restoration process by helping to develop plans, recommend and prioritize work, and establish methods for monitoring and communicating progress.
Both EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office and DEC have developed guidance to help Areas of Concern that are ready to delist. EPA's guidance document is available on its Areas of Concern webpage (a direct link is in the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section of this page). DEC's AOC delisting guidance (PDF, 83 KB) is based on EPA's guidance and offers details specific to Areas of Concern in New York State.
More about Areas of Concern:
- Niagara River Area of Concern Fish Tumors Impairment Removal - NYSDEC is accepting public comments on a proposal to remove the Niagara River Area of Concern's fish tumor beneficial use impairment.
- Buffalo River Area of Concern - The Buffalo River is one of five active Areas of Concern in New York.
- Rochester Embayment Area of Concern - The Rochester Embayment is one of five active Areas of Concern in New York.
- Oswego River Area of Concern - The Oswego River Area of Concern was delisted in 2006.
- St. Lawrence River at Massena Area of Concern - The St. Lawrence River at Massena is one of five active Areas of Concern in New York State.