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Finger Lakes Stewardship

Fall 2017

Home to over a million people, the Finger Lakes region is prized for its beauty, wine, fishing and recreational tourism. All but one of the Finger Lakes are public drinking water supplies. As with many lakes, there are water quality issues that must be understood and addressed. To bring an enhanced, holistic focus to the Finger Lakes, to develop institutional expertise and to expand community collaborations, NYSDEC recently created the "Finger Lakes Water Hub."

The Hub is NYSDEC's center of activity to better understand, protect and address the water quality issues confronting the Finger Lakes. The Hub is composed of four experts stationed in NYSDEC's Syracuse office who operate throughout the region. The Hub takes a collaborative approach, as maintaining water quality and ecology is necessarily a team effort. This past summer, the Hub team met with key stakeholders to learn about the specific issues affecting each lake.

To build on the existing passion and drive for protecting and restoring the Finger Lakes, the Hub staff coordinate with existing NYSDEC water programs, such as the harmful algal bloom program, the Great Lakes program, and watershed-based scientific monitoring and assessment activities. Hub staff are working to connect state agency programs with the work of research institutions, local governments and civic organizations, and will work with key stakeholders to develop strategies for individual Finger Lakes.

Starting this fall, Hub staff will work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop a Finger Lakes Action Agenda to align new priorities with existing environmental, social and economic goals. The Action Agenda will guide conservation, restoration and protection efforts for the Finger Lakes region. Action agendas for priority watersheds are useful tools to ensure stakeholder ideas, interests and concerns are factored into decisions and priorities. The Finger Lakes Action Agenda will be linked to the larger Great Lakes Action Agenda and the national Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as the Finger Lakes are wholly within the Great Lakes watershed.

The Hub and its collaborators have already made considerable progress. The Hub successfully secured funding for the Finger Lakes to participate in the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP), which monitors two sites on each of the 11 lakes during the summer months. This data will provide lake-specific water quality information to agencies, municipalities and other stakeholder groups. Furthermore, staff are currently overseeing a cover crop project and a pilot soil-loss calculator in the eastern Finger Lakes watersheds to help farmers reduce nutrient runoff from their fields. The team has been hard at work on initial watershed management plans for several Finger Lakes, as well as developing a comprehensive research strategy for the region.

I encourage you to read the article by Hub member Aimee Clinkhammer in this issue of Clear Waters to learn more about the Hub function and staff.

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