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For Release: Friday, June 2, 2017

NYS DEC and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Announce New Opportunities for Public Input on Proposals to Restore Wildlife Habitat and Recreation on Onondaga Lake

Public Comment Session & Additional Open House Scheduled for June 22

Public Comment Period Extended to July 17

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) today announced additional opportunities for public input on proposed projects to restore wildlife habitat and recreation on Onondaga Lake to provide the public with more time to provide feedback on this important proposal.

The initial six-week public comment period on the draft plan, originally scheduled to end on June 2, 2017, has been extended 45 days to July 17, 2017. In addition, to supplement the four public information sessions recently held in April and May, a public comment session and additional open house are scheduled for Thursday, June 22, at Syracuse Community Connections - Southwest Community Center, 401 South Ave., Syracuse, NY 13204, in the Clover Corner room.

During the open house portion beginning at 5:00 p.m., posters of projects outlined in the draft plan will be available for viewing and representatives from DEC and the USF&WS will be on hand to answer questions and explain the natural resource damage assessment and restoration process. The public comment session will begin at 6:00 p.m. and all persons, organizations, corporations, or government agencies that may be affected by the proposed project are encouraged to comment on the proposed projects to restore wildlife habitat and recreation on Onondaga Lake.

The public comment session is a forum for DEC and USF&WS to receive unsworn statements from the public. It is not necessary to file a written request in advance to speak at the public comment session. Written and oral statements and comments on the proposed projects to restore wildlife habitat and recreation on Onondaga Lake are encouraged, and any statements and comments may be filed prior to, or at the public comment session but no later than the deadline for written comments, which is July 17, 2017. The Administrative Law Judge may limit the time available for oral comments to three minutes per person to ensure that all persons have an opportunity to be heard. A court stenographer will be present making a written record of all comments made at the public comment session. Comments made earlier in the comment period do not need to be resubmitted.

Individuals needing special accommodations should contact the DEC Office of Hearings and Mediation Services by June 15, 2017 at:
NYS DEC
625 Broadway, First Floor
Albany, New York 12233-1550
518-402-9003

DEC and USF&WS are considering a series of projects to restore and protect wildlife habitat and water quality and increase recreational opportunities at Onondaga Lake, as outlined in a draft restoration plan and environmental assessment released for public comment. The draft plan and additional information on the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process may be found on the USF&WS website. (Leaves DEC's Website)

As part of the Onondaga Lake Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration process, DEC and USF&WS assessed contaminant-related injuries to natural resources such as waterfowl and turtles, and quantified the lost use of natural resources to the public, such as fishing. The agencies then solicited restoration project ideas from stakeholders to identify the types and scale of restoration needed to compensate for those injuries. The ultimate goal of the process is to replace, restore, rehabilitate, or acquire the equivalent of injured natural resources and resource services lost due to the release of hazardous substances-at no cost to the taxpayer.

The agencies analyze 20 restoration projects in the draft restoration plan and environmental assessment. These projects, in total, include the following benefits:

  • Extension of the Erie Canalway Trail from Camillus to the Loop the Lake Trail (3.2 miles) and from the Honeywell Visitor Center to Harbor Brook (1.2 miles);
  • Preservation, habitat restoration and public access to over 1,400 acres along Ninemile and Onondaga Creeks in the Onondaga Lake watershed, including public fishing rights and parking areas;
  • Installation of structures within over 275 acres of Onondaga Lake to provide habitat for fish, amphibians and invertebrates;
  • Fifteen years of funding for the identification and removal of invasive species within about 1,700 acres of wetlands, lake/river littoral zone and riparian habitat;
  • Restoration of wetland and fish habitat at Onondaga County parklands;
  • 100 acres of warm season grassland restoration;
  • Deepwater fishing pier on Onondaga Lake;
  • Enhancement of jetties at the Onondaga Lake outlet to improve access for all;
  • Boat launch to be developed along the Seneca River;
  • Transfer of the Honeywell Visitor Center to a public agency; and
  • Future Restoration Projects Fund.

While these projects have not targeted Onondaga Creek, trustees have explored and continue to invite feedback on projects in lower Onondaga Creek that meet criteria in the draft restoration plan.

Comments on the draft plan may be submitted through July 17 by mail to Anne Secord, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 3817 Luker Road, Cortland, New York 13045, by email to anne_secord@fws.gov, or phone at (607) 753-9334. Verbal and written comments will also be accepted at the June 22 Public Hearing. All comments received will receive equal considerations. After the comment period closes, feedback will be carefully reviewed and any necessary changes made to a final document identifying the chosen restoration. To date, the public has made valuable contributions to the plan solicited through a variety of means.

Under federal law, federal and state agencies and Native American tribes are authorized to act as trustees on behalf of the public for natural resources they own, manage or control. In this role, trustees assess and recover damages or implement restoration projects to compensate for injuries to natural resources due to hazardous substance releases (e.g. mercury).The natural resource damage assessment regulations encourage the participation of potentially responsible parties (PRPs) in the assessment process, and Honeywell agreed to cooperatively assess natural resource damages (NRDAR) and identify restoration projects at Onondaga Lake with the trustees. Read more information on this NRDAR process (https://www.fws.gov/northeast/ecologicalservices/nrdar.html). (Leaves DEC's Website)

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