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For Release: Friday, July 28, 2023

DEC, Finger Lakes Land Trust, and Wetland Trust Announce Preservation of Land in Cayuga Lake Watershed

State's Water Quality Improvement Project Funding Helps Protect 43 Acres and More than 5,000 Feet of Cayuga Inlet Streambank

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT), and The Wetland Trust, Inc. (TWT) today announced the permanent protection of 43 acres just south of Ithaca in the town of Newfield, Tompkins County. The project was funded in part through the state's Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) Program which directly improves water quality or aquatic habitat, promotes flood risk reduction, restoration, and enhanced flood and climate resiliency, or protects a drinking water source.

"Protecting water quality is a top priority for DEC and our land trust partners throughout New York State," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "By working with partners like the Finger Lakes Land Trust and the Wetland Land Trust, DEC is safeguarding a drinking water source and a key natural buffer along Cayuga Inlet for generations to come."

"This acquisition will help ensure water quality within Cayuga Lake while also securing important habitat for fish and wildlife," said FLLT Executive Director Andrew Zepp. "Protecting this land from development also means that its floodplains will continue to minimize flooding downstream."

The FLLT acquired the 43-acre property using a portion of a $921,000 WQIP grant awarded by DEC in December 2018. Following closing, the property was conveyed to TWT with a deed restriction that limits use of the land to protect water quality in the inlet. The property features more than 5,000 feet of undeveloped frontage on the Cayuga Inlet as well as wetlands that filter runoff to the inlet and Cayuga Lake.

Protection of this property helps prevent development that would disrupt critical buffers along the inlet. Natural vegetated buffers along streams and wetlands are particularly important as they can filter and absorb pollutants from stormwater that could otherwise enter the waterbody. Protection of this property also adds to a growing network of conserved lands in this area. The FLLT currently owns two nature preserves that border the inlet - the Tapan Mitra Preserve in Ithaca and the Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve in West Danby.

Finger Lakes Land Trust

By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected more than 30,000 acres of the region's undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland. The FLLT owns and manages a network of more than 45 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 176 properties that remain in private ownership.

The FLLT focuses on protecting critical habitat for fish and wildlife, conserving lands that are important for water quality, connecting existing conservation lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. The organization also provides programs to educate local governments, landowners, and residents about conservation and the region's unique natural resources. Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at the Finger Lakes Land Trust website.

The Wetland Trust

The Wetland Trust, Inc. owns approximately 3,600 acres in New York. TWT protects, conserves, and restores wetlands to help insure long-term sustainability of the fish, wildlife, plants, and water quality of those lands. It attempts to combine wetlands, stream reaches, and uplands into functioning components of the landscape. It has a special focus on amphibian and reptile conservation. Information about TWT may be found at The Wetland Trust website.

New York's Commitment to Clean Water

WQIP is a competitive, reimbursement grant program that funds projects that improve water quality or aquatic habitat, promote flood risk reduction, restoration, and enhanced flood and climate resiliency, or protect a drinking water source. Under this grant program, DEC announced more than $65 million for 51 land acquisition projects to date. In addition to land acquisition projects for source water protection, WQIP grants may be awarded for wastewater treatment improvement, non-agricultural nonpoint source abatement and control, vacuum trucks in municipal storm sewer system (MS4) areas), salt storage, dam safety repair/rehabilitation, aquatic connectivity restoration, and marine district habitat restoration.

Currently, at least $78 million in WQIP funding is available, of which up to $3 million is available through DEC's Non-agriculture Nonpoint Source Planning and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Mapping Grant (NPG) program. Governor Hochul recently extended the application period until Aug. 11, 2023, to provide more time for application submissions from municipalities hit hard by recent flooding. Visit the WQIP website for more information.

New York continues to increase its investments in clean water infrastructure. Most recently, the 2023-24 Enacted Budget includes the $500 million in clean water funding proposed by Governor Hochul in January and brings New York's total clean water infrastructure investment to $5 billion since 2017. In April, Governor Hochul made the first funding announcement advanced under the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022 (leaves DEC's website). A total of $425 million is available - $200 million in Bond Act funds and $225 million in funding from the state's existing Water Infrastructure Improvement and Intermunicipal Grant programs. Locations will include Central New York, the Adirondacks, Upper and Lower Hudson.

To learn more about implementing this and other funding in the Bond Act, register and attend one of the upcoming listening sessions by visiting the Environmental Bond Act webpage.

Photo courtesy of Finger Lakes Land Trust

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