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For Release: Friday, October 8, 2021

DEC and The Nature Conservancy Announce Acquisition of 161 Acres in Owasco Lake Watershed to Protect Water Quality

Acquisition Supported by $1.1 Million Water Quality Improvement Project Grant to the Conservancy

Permanent Protection of Watershed Parcel Safeguards Drinking Water Supplies

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and The Nature Conservancy today announced the acquisition of 161 acres in town of Sempronius in the Owasco Lake watershed. The acquisition of the Ward property will help protect public water supplies and safeguard riparian buffers and wetlands. This critical acquisition is the second of several parcels the Conservancy is purchasing with funding from a $1.1 million Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) grant from DEC that specifically targets the protection of source waters.

"Protecting drinking water sources is a top priority for New York," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "Working with partners like The Nature Conservancy, DEC is advancing the State's water protection goals and today's announcement marks the second of several parcels in the Owasco Lake watershed being purchased with Water Quality Improvement Project grant funding. This critical acquisition will help create a healthier lake, protect the water supply, and contribute to local economies dependent on quality recreational opportunities."

"The Nature Conservancy is grateful for the partnerships that have allowed us to play a role in protecting the water quality of Owasco Lake," said Jim Howe, The Nature Conservancy's Central and Western New York Chapter Director. "Our focus has been on maintaining the forests and wetlands around the starting points of streams flowing into the lake, which science shows is vitally important to the health of the lake and the region."

Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council Chair and Town of Owasco Supervisor Edward Wagner said, "As Chair of the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council, which helps coordinate watershed protection actions among its partners, and Supervisor for the Town of Owasco, which depends on a safe drinking water supply, I am delighted about The Nature Conservancy's recent land acquisition in Sempronius. This high priority parcel will protect the many ecosystem services provided by wetlands, riparian buffers, and other natural resources that are critical for protecting water quality in Owasco Lake."

Using the grant funds, the Conservancy has been identifying, protecting, and restoring parcels of land in the Owasco Lake watershed that have the most impact on the lake's water quality. The Ward property ranked in the top 10 in this assessment. At 161 acres, the Ward property consists of vacant woodland and approximately 40 acres of freshwater wetlands. A stream begins on the property that flows into Dresserville Creek to Owasco Inlet, the primary tributary to Owasco Lake. The land will not be developed, allowing its natural features to help protect public water supplies by reducing sediment and nutrient loading, helping to reduce contributors to harmful algal blooms (HABs).

Acquisition of the Ward parcel builds upon the State's ongoing actions to reduce the frequency of HABs, which are a persistent challenge in the Finger Lakes and waterbodies statewide. DEC is taking nation-leading actions to prevent and mitigate these potentially toxic blooms by investing in infrastructure upgrades and new technology. Since the launch of the State's HABs Initiative in 2018, New York has provided an estimated $187 million for projects statewide to reduce the frequency of HABs.

New York's Commitment to Clean Water
New York continues to increase investments for clean water infrastructure projects, including the State's unprecedented $4 billion commitment to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean water. As part of the state's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), the WQIP supports projects to improve water quality, reduce the potential for HABs, and protect drinking water across the state. DEC has announced more than $37 million for 37 land acquisition projects to date. In addition to land acquisition projects for source water protection, WQIP grants are awarded for municipal wastewater treatment, nonagricultural nonpoint source abatement and control, salt storage, and aquatic habitat restoration.

Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced (leaves DEC's website) the availability of $600 million to communities statewide through the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA), WQIP, and Intermunicipal Grant (IMG) programs to fund projects to upgrade infrastructure and make communities more resilient to flooding and other impacts of climate-driven severe storms and weather events.

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