Department of Environmental Conservation

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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
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:

* 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:

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.

Delisting Guidance

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: