Department of Environmental Conservation

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Areas of Concern

Map of New York's Great Lakes Areas of Concern
Map of New York's Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
Click image to download a detailed PDF version of this map.

The US and Canada originally designated 42 Areas of Concern across the Great Lakes basin, including six areas in NY, as being environmentally degraded to the extent that there is significant impairment of beneficial uses, under Annex 1 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). Examples of beneficial use impairments include restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, beach closings, and loss of fish and wildlife habitat (a full list is below). These Areas of Concern, or AOCs, are given special priority for ecological restoration. 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.

In 2006, the Oswego River became the first U.S. AOC to be considered restored and was formally delisted. NYSDEC and partners work to restore uses for the following areas:

Niagara River AOC

DEC coordinates the Niagara River AOC (leaves DEC website) by implementing the Stage II Remedial Action Plan.

Supporting Documents

Buffalo River AOC

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper (leaves DEC website) coordinates restoration of the Buffalo River Area of Concern (leaves DEC website).

Supporting Documents

Rochester Embayment AOC

The Monroe County Department of Public Health (leaves DEC website) coordinates restoration of the Rochester Embayment AOC (leaves DEC website).

Supporting Documents

Visit the Rochester Embayment AOC webpage for supporting documents.

Eighteenmile Creek AOC

Niagara County Soil and Water Conservation District (leaves DEC website) coordinates restoration for the Eighteenmile Creek AOC (leaves DEC website).

Supporting Documents

St. Lawrence River at Massena/Akwesasne AOC

DEC and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe (leaves DEC website) coordinate the restore the St. Lawrence River at Massena/Akwesasne AOC (leaves DEC website).

Supporting Documents

Visit the St. Lawrence River at Massena/Akwesasne AOC webpage for supporting documents.

Oswego River AOC (delisted)

The Oswego River (leaves DEC website) AOC was delisted in 2006, and today supports a world class fishery and improved tourism.

Supporting Documents

Remedial Action Plans (RAP)

All AOCs have a RAP that identifies specific problems and outlines the work needed to restore, or delist, the AOC. DEC and partners work to correct Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) issues in order to delist the AOC.

RAP's are developed in three stages:

  • Stage I identifies specific problems, called Beneficial Use Impairments, or BUIs, 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.

Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs)

Specific impacts limiting the uses of the waters and lands within each AOC are called BUI. There are 14 possible BUI for any AOC:

  • Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption
  • Tainting of Fish and Wildlife Flavor (PDF)
  • Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations
  • Fish Tumors or Other Deformities (PDF)
  • 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 (PDF)
  • Added Costs to Agriculture or Industry (PDF)
  • Degradation of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton Populations
  • Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

Delisting Guidance

DEC's AOC delisting guidance (PDF) is based on EPA's guidance and offers details specific to Areas of Concern in New York State.


More about Areas of Concern: