Onondaga Lake Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment Released for Public Comment

Last edited 09/03/2020

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are considering a series of projects to restore and protect wildlife habitat and water quality and increase recreational opportunities at Onondaga Lake, as outlined in a draft restoration plan and environmental assessment released for public comment through June 2, 2017.

The draft plan may be found at: http://nyfo.fws.gov/ec/files/onondaga/Onondaga_RPEA_Press_Release.pdf.

For decades, mercury and other hazardous substances were released into Onondaga Lake and its tributaries and uplands. Due to this industrial pollution, Onondaga Lake was designated a Superfund site in 1994, launching a comprehensive remediation of the Lake and additional sites in the area, and through various court proceedings, the responsible parties must now also pay for the damages to natural resources this contamination has caused.

As part of the Onondaga Lake natural resource damage assessment and restoration process, the USFWS and NYSDEC assessed contaminant-related injuries to natural resources such as waterfowl and turtles, and quantified the lost use of natural resources to the public, such as fishing. The trustees then solicited restoration project ideas from stakeholders to identify the types and scale of restoration needed to compensate for those injuries. The ultimate goal of this process is to replace, restore, rehabilitate, or acquire the equivalent of injured natural resources and resource services lost due to the release of hazardous substances—at no cost to the taxpayer.

Twenty restoration projects are analyzed in the draft restoration plan and environmental assessment. These projects, in total, include the following benefits:

  • Extension of the Erie Canalway Trail from Camillus to the Loop the Lake Trail (3.2 miles) and from the Honeywell Visitor Center to Harbor Brook (1.2 miles);
  • Preservation, habitat restoration and public access to over 1,400 acres along Ninemile and Onondaga Creeks in the Onondaga Lake watershed, including public fishing rights and parking areas;
  • Installation of structures within over 275 acres of Onondaga Lake to provide habitat for fish, amphibians and invertebrates;
  • Fifteen years of funding for the identification and removal of invasive species within about 1,700 acres of wetlands, lake/river littoral zone and riparian habitat;
  • Restoration of wetland and fish habitat at Onondaga County parklands;
  • 100 acres of warm season grassland restoration;
  • Deepwater fishing pier on Onondaga Lake;
  • Enhancement of jetties at the Onondaga Lake outlet to improve access for all;
  • Boat launch to be developed along the Seneca River;
  • Transfer of the Honeywell Visitor Center to a public agency;
  • Future Restoration Projects Fund.
The trustees are soliciting comments on this draft plan through June 2, 2017.  Comments may be submitted by email to anne_secord@fws.gov and by mail to:
Anne Secord
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
3817 Luker Road
Cortland, New York 13045

After the comment period closes, feedback will be closely reviewed and any necessary changes made to a final document identifying the chosen restoration.

Under federal law, federal and state agencies and Native American tribes are authorized to act as trustees on behalf of the public for natural resources they own, manage or control. In this role, trustees assess and recover damages or implement restoration projects to compensate for injuries to natural resources due to hazardous substance releases (e.g. mercury).The natural resource damage assessment regulations encourage the participation of potentially responsible parties (PRPs) in the assessment process, and Honeywell agreed to cooperatively assess natural resource damages and identify restoration projects at Onondaga Lake with the trustees.

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