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Eastern Finger Lakes Coalition Gets Help to Combat HABs


New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Agriculture and Markets (AGM), and the 11 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) in the Eastern Finger Lakes, have announced $1.2 million in funding for the Eastern Finger Lakes Coalition to accelerate watershed protection and restoration measures to improve water quality and combat harmful algal blooms (HABs).

The Eastern Finger Lake watershed covers more than 30 percent of the Lake Ontario drainage basin and contains seven of New York’s Finger Lakes and their watersheds: Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, and Otisco lakes.

This investment into the Eastern Finger Lakes Coalition to build professional capacity and accelerate agricultural and resiliency-related projects – specifically providing necessary capital investments that will galvanize implementation of the plans and programs developed to address on-the-ground actions necessary to address HABs. The capital infusion will also include support for farmers to invest in more cover crops, improve culverts to reduce runoff, and other investments to improve soil health and reduce water quality impairments in the region.

The county Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the Eastern Finger Lakes (Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne, and Yates) have planned for, written, and implemented hundreds of millions of dollars of competitive grants to protect and improve water quality in the region. However, there remains a substantial need for increased program support and funding to implement DEC-approved clean water plans, HABs Action Plans, and Strategic Agricultural Environmental Management plans specific to the Eastern Finger Lakes. Established in 2023, the Eastern Finger Lakes Coalition are the 11 SWCDs working to protect and improve water quality and critical natural resources in the watershed. The lakes and waterways serve as public water supplies, provide recreational opportunities, are key habitats for fish and wildlife, and are important for local economies via tax bases, agricultural production, and tourism.

The Eastern Finger Lakes Coalition said, “Funding for the Eastern Finger Lakes Coalition strengthens and enhances the SWCDs ability to plan and implement locally-led conservation initiatives in response to evolving environmental challenges associated with a changing climate. With the support of New York State, SWCDs will continue to plan common sense conservation practices and accelerate their implementation throughout the Eastern Finger Lakes Region, supporting the State’s environmental goals while protecting valuable natural resources.”

DEC Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar said, “Understanding and managing the Eastern Finger Lakes is critical to effective water quality improvement in the watershed. Funding for the Coalition will increase local SWCD professional program support, allow for best management practice implementation, and improve education and outreach critical to reducing nutrient pollution and HABs in the Eastern Finger Lakes. Governor Hochul’s leadership in securing the critical $1.2 million in funding in the 2024-25 State Budget and unwavering support promoting water quality solutions continues to be crucial to achieving the State’s environmental goals.”

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