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For Release: Friday, March 22, 2019

DEC Releases 2016-2018 Great Lakes Program Progress Report

People and Communities Are Benefitting from Collaborative Projects to Restore New York's Great Lakes Resources

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the release of the 2016-2018 progress report on the restoration and protection of New York's Great Lakes resources. The report, released to commemorate World Water Day, highlights New York's programs and projects in the Great Lakes watershed that are benefiting communities taking action to maintain and improve community uses of the lakes, surrounding lands and other waterways in the Great Lakes Basin.

"The Great Lakes are a vital resource for New York and the nation's environment and economy. However, the growing absence of federal environmental leadership is putting the lakes' continued recovery at risk," said Commissioner Basil Seggos. "New York is committed to making investments to restore, protect, and enhance this critical watershed for the benefit of our state's environment, economy, and quality of life, and the Great Lakes Action Agenda is a strong blueprint to achieve our goals. This report showcases how New York's leadership is creating collaborative partnerships and implementing effective programs that build on progress underway."

The 2016-2018 Great Lakes Report details how DEC and its partners are restoring environmental quality, conserving natural resources, promoting resilient communities, and supporting sustainable development. Key projects include Lake Ontario flood mapping, municipal sewage system upgrades, projects that help prevent beach closures, restore habitat, and wetlands, and projects that use native plants to stabilize shorelines at Sodus Bay, Sacketts Harbor, and Irondequoit Bay. Report highlights include:

  • DEC, New York State Department of Health, and other partners developed green infrastructure design plans for the Lake Erie beach in the town of Evans and the Point Gratiot Park beach in the city of Dunkirk to capture runoff, restore beach quality, and reduce closures;
  • An innovative habitat project between DEC and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe collected and relocated freshwater native mussels to protect these creatures during the removal of contaminated sediments in the Grasse River;
  • A new Statewide Riparian Restoration Opportunity Assessment tool developed through a state Environmental Protection Fund commitment to the NY Natural Heritage program allows conservation practitioners, watershed stakeholders, and others to compare ecological health and stress scores to help guide shoreline protection and water quality restoration efforts;
  • The completion of nine habitat restoration projects along the Buffalo River shoreline and five Niagara River habitat and wetland restoration project designs; and
  • The Great Lakes Ecosystem Education Exchange (GLEEE) reached 100 educators and nearly 23,000 students across New York's Great Lakes watersheds. This DEC-New York Sea Grant program provides hands-on activities and lesson plans to help the next generation of New Yorkers learn about and improve the health of the Great Lakes.

New York's Great Lakes Program and partners have advanced the goals of the Great Lakes Action Agenda (GLAA) by balancing the needs of residents, nature, and the economy through collaborative, science-based decision-making. Ongoing efforts will build on current successes and promote the understanding of and appreciation for the many beautiful places and important water resources of the Great Lakes Basin.

Directed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York is leading the charge with record investments in environmental protection, including directing more than $6.6 million between 2016-2018 from the EPF to implement the action agenda's ecosystem-based management practices. A portion of these and other state funds have been used to successfully attract an additional $31.5 million from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to support 80 projects that directly complement New York's priorities. In addition, the state's existing $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act (CWIA) provides valuable support for healthy waterways and drinking water supplies and the Governor's Executive Budget proposal would double that funding to $5 billion.

DEC Great Lakes Basin Program Coordinator Don Zelazny said, "Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the dedicated work of state and local agencies, our community partners, and organizations throughout the region, we continue to move forward on numerous fronts to ensure the Great Lakes will always be a great place to live, work, and visit."

For more information on getting involved in efforts to help protect and improve New York's Great Lakes at the local or regional level, visit DEC's website or email greatlakes@dec.ny.gov.

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