Lake Plains RC&D Information

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Feb., Apr., Jun., Aug., Oct., and December.
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Meeting Minutes before June 2009 are available at the Lake Plains Office.

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Lake Plains RC&D Resource Concerns

Water Quality

Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are two of the world's largest fresh water bodies and offer a wide variety of opportunities not only as a source of fresh water for consumption (municipal supply and irrigation) but also greatly contributes to the region's economy via recreational and tourism activities. During the past thirty years point and non-point sources of pollution have threatened the lake's water quality. According to the June 1998 NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) ( Non-point Assessment Report (NAR) which was submitted to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), (24) streams segments in the Lake Plains RC&D area are considered threatened, (39) stressed, (27) impaired, and (6) precluded by various non-point sources of pollution and are high priority candidates for watershed planning. Within the Great Lakes chain 43 "hot spots" have been identified by the International Great Lakes Commission ( & and the Environmental Protection Agency ( as requiring immediate remediation. Four of these "hotspots", the Niagara River (Erie and Niagara County); Buffalo River (Erie County), Rochester Embayment (Monroe & Genesee Counties); and Eighteen Mile Creek (Niagara County) are located within the Lake Plains RC&D Area.

There are four drainage basins within the area served by the Lake Plains RC&D Area (Data from New York State Water Quality 1998 Bureau of Watershed Assessment & Research Division of Water, NYS, DEC (; they include:

  1. Niagara River-Lake Erie Basin which includes the following watersheds Chautauqua- Conneaut - Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 04120101, Cattaraugus - (HUC) 04120102, Buffalo-Eighteenmile - (HUC) 04120103, Niagara - (HUC) 04120104, Lake Erie - (HUC) 04120200.
  2. The Lake Erie-Niagara River Basin drains some 2,300 miles inhabited by approximately 1.3 million persons making it the states second most densely populated drainage area. The Buffalo and Niagara Falls Metropolitan Statistical Areas account for most of the basin’s population and contain the largest concentration of heavy industry in the state. As the distance from these major metropolitan areas increases, the rest of the basin tends to be suburban residential and then becomes predominately rural and agricultural.

    Water Quality Issues and Concerns

    The primary water quality issues in the Niagara River-Lake Erie Drainage Basin are associated with Niagara River and Buffalo River Areas of Concern (AOC). These are two of 43 AOCs in the Great Lakes Basin identified by the International Joint Commission (IJC) where pollutants seriously impair the beneficial uses of a waterbody. Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) for the AOCs are currently being developed and implemented to restore and protect these uses. The 1998 Priority Waterbodies List (PWL) identified streambank erosion as a major source of water quality impairment in the tributaries to Lake Erie and Buffalo River sub-basins. Contaminated sediments and on-site systems were the major sources in the Niagara River and Tonawanda Creek sub-basins, respectively.

  3. Lake Ontario (Minor Tributaries) Basin, watersheds include Oak Orchard-Twelvemile (HUC) 04130001, Irondequoit-Ninemile (HUC) 04140101, Salmon-Sandy (HUC) 04140102, Lake Ontario (HUC) 04150200.
  4. The Lake Ontario Basin ( in New York State drains an area of about 3,000 square miles inhabited by approximately 700,000 people. Except for the Rochester Metropolitan Statistical Area, the basin is primarily rural-agricultural in nature with smaller population centers and some industry located along major transportation corridors, tributaries and near the large cities located in adjacent drainage basins. There are approximately 4,000 miles of rivers and streams and 200 lakes in the basin. Five of the six Areas of Concern (AOC) identified by the International Joint Commission in New York State are tributary to Lake Ontario. These AOCs are the Niagara River and Buffalo River (discussed in the Niagara River-Lake Erie section of this report), the Rochester Embayment (Genesee River section), Oswego River/Harbor (Oswego-Seneca-Oneida River section) and Eighteenmile Creek.

    Water Quality Issues and Concerns

Steady progress has been made toward cleaning up the waters of the Lake Ontario Basin. Most notable has been the regionalization of treatment facilities in the Rochester area resulting in the elimination of numerous significant individual discharges to Lake Ontario, Irondequoit Creek, and four other lake tributaries. Remaining water quality problem segments in the basin’s tributaries and near shore waters are primarily due to eutrophication and siltation caused by excess nutrients and runoff from agricultural operations and on-site disposal systems. The 1998 Priority Waterbodies List (PWL) cites several major embayments and connected bays as showing evidence of eutrophication and other impairments caused by non-point sources. They include Braddock Bay, the Rochester Embayment, Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, East Bay, Port Bay, Little Sodus Bay, Chaumont Bay and Mud Bay. Nutrients from agricultural runoff and on-site waste disposal systems are the most frequently cited pollutant and sources. Exceptions are Braddock Bay where siltation from construction and the Rochester Embayment where pathogen indicator bacteria from combined sewer overflows are cited as the primary pollutants and sources, respectively. A number of tributary streams are also listed as affected by pollutants from agricultural sources.
  1. Genesee River Basin watersheds include the Upper Genesee (HUC) 04130002 and the Lower (HUC) 04130003.
  2. The Genesee River Basin has its headwaters in Pennsylvania and flows north across the width of the western arm of New York State to Lake Ontario. The drainage basin consists of 2,400 square miles in New York and is inhabited by approximately 400,000 persons. A major portion of this population resides in the Rochester Metropolitan Statistical Area, which also contains most of the industrial and commercial activity in the basin. The rest of the basin is lightly populated and primarily rural-agricultural in character with small population centers.

    Water Quality Issues and Concerns

    Most of the Genesee River drainage basin upstream of the Rochester metropolitan area has relatively good water quality. Since this portion of the basin is primarily rural and agricultural, silt and nutrients from agricultural sources are the primary cause of water quality impairment. Few PWL segments are listed because of toxic pollutants. Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Despite major water pollution abatement progress made in the lower Genesee River as the result of treatment facilities provided by the Monroe County Pure Waters Department, Gates-Chili-Ogden STP and Eastman Kodak Company, the International Joint Commission has identified the Rochester embayment as an Area of Concern (AOC). The Area of Concern includes a 35sq mi. portion of Lake Ontario and a six-mile reach of the lower Genesee River.

  3. Oswego-Seneca-Oneida River Basin which includes the following watersheds, Seneca HUC 0410201, Oneida HUC 04140202, Oswego HUC 04140203.

The Oswego-Seneca-Oneida Basin drains some 5,000 square miles within central New York with a population of about one million. It’s only major population and industrial-commercial center is the Syracuse metropolitan area in the eastern portion of the basin where approximately two-thirds of the population resides. The remainder of the basin is primarily rural and agricultural with several small population centers. Only a very small portion of this basin is within the Lake Plains RC&D area.

Shoreline Erosion

The shoreline along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie experiences varying degrees of erosion annually. The resulting loss of land does not only contribute to the degradation of the lake's water quality but the eroding bluffs and shoreline are continually encroaching upon commercial and residential dwellings resulting in the potential loss of property, services, and life. In an estimate of Lake Ontario Shoreline Damage compiled for Niagara County in June of 1998, they estimated property damages of over $3.5 million dollars and cumulative damages of approximately $8 million. Compounding the shoreline erosion problem is the fact that Lake Ontario is the final lake in the Great Lakes Chain and can not control its inflow. Conversely, the outflow is artificially regulated by the International Joint Commission to accommodate shipping and hydropower generation. Therefore, the maintenance of the lake level has presented an ongoing conflict between industry and shoreline residents. (

Recreation Resources

Recreation and tourism also play a significant part in the economies of the six counties within the RC&D. Boating, fishing, water sports, cross-country skiing, hiking, and hunting provide countless recreational opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. There are a number of State and local Parks as well as a variety of other recreation resources in the Lake Plains RC&D area. Niagara Falls, the seventh wonder of the world, helps attract about 13 million annual visitors to the area making tourism a major industry in Western New York.

Niagara Reservation State Park, which surrounds Niagara Falls, one of the World’s Great Nature Wonders, this international destination, is one of the most captivating attractions in the world. Niagara Reservation State Park is also the nation’s oldest state park and includes Goat Island and Three Sisters Islands. There are many other State Parks within the region

The NYS Barge Canal System ( With the passage of a state referendum the NYS Barge Canal System was transferred from the NYS Department of Transportation to NYS Thruway Authority. This transfer opened up numerous commercial opportunities for water based recreation as well as additional tourism enterprises. A significant portion of the Erie Canal and the Canalway Trail are located in the Lake Plains RC&D area. Located completely within the Lake Plains RC&D is the Western Erie Canal Heritage Corridor – The Western Erie Canal Heritage Corridor is the newest of the States 17 Heritage Areas. The region contains all or parts of Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, and Wayne counties. An 18 member planning commission will oversee the writing of a management plan for the heritage area over the next three years. While each heritage area has its own organization, actions and theme, they all strive to promote preservation and recreational use of natural and cultural resources, local and regional heritage education and economic revitalization. The Lake Plains RC&D supported the development of the Planning Commission in a letter dated May 28, 1999. We also offered the assistance of the RC&D staff and members to support the development of the plan. The Western Erie Canal Heritage Corridor Planning Commission is currently setting up Task Force meetings to help with the development of the plan. The Lake Plains RC&D will participate as a Task Force member and assist with development of the plan as needed. The Erie Canal was recently designated the 23rd National Heritage Corridor in the United States, the 175 year-old canal is now part of this program administered by National Park Service ( "Few historic resources in the United States are equal to the Erie Canal in their impact on the creation of the American nation" Marie Rust, Northeast regional director for the National Park Service (Democrat and Chronicle Dec. 18, 2000). The National Park Service is just beginning the process of developing a management plan for the Canal.

The Seaway Trail, New York States National Scenic Byway crosses through five of the Lake Plain RC&D Counties, paralleling Lake Erie, Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The Seaway Trail was selected as a National Scenic Byway for its unique landscape and its historical significance. (

Sport Fishery – Sport fishing is a popular pastime and economic activity though out the area. Lake Ontario is a favorite destination for anglers in search of Pacific salmon, lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and steelhead, walleye, black bass, northern pike, and panfish. The area also supports ice fishing especially on Lake Erie, which freezes over each year. The rivers and streams are also popular for fishing. Through extensive efforts of the state and federal governments to reduce toxins, phosphorous, and sediment levels over the past 20 years water quality in Lakes have improved. In the early and mid 1980's Lake Ontario became a premier salmonoid fishery. This change on the lake's fishery has had a significant effect on the region's economy. A joint study by NYSDEC and New York's Sea Grant ( program reported that revenues generated in 1978 by sport fishing on Lake Ontario amounted to $483,763.00. By 1990 these same counties had realized $6.79 million in revenue from sport fishing. Ironically with the steady improvement of water quality in Lake Ontario there has been a dramatic decline in alewife and smelt (primary salmon and trout food) populations thereby reducing sport fishing opportunities. Therefore, the potential exists for a down turn in this fresh water fishery, which is vital to the region's economy.

Wildlife Refuges – The Lake Plains RC&D Area also lies within the North Atlantic Flyway of migrating waterfowl. Two federal wildlife refuges (Iroquois and Montezuma as well as two state wildlife refuges (Tonawanda and Oak Orchard) provide both passive (bird watching) and active (hunting) recreation.

Forest Resource Management

The Lake Plains RC&D is approximately 35% forested and grows some of the highest quality hardwoods. The regions forests represent: 1) the least polluting land use within the region; 2) an important natural resource that is critical to the environmental quality of the region, and 3) is a significant, sustainable economic resource which contributes to the regions timber, wood products, recreation and tourism industries. Retention, expansion and development of forest-based industry in western New York is being threatened by other states and countries who are more aggressively recruiting firms and seeking markets for their forest resources and products. New York State employment in total wood related manufacturing dropped by 23 percent from 1988 to 1995. We know that a large portion of western New York forest products are shipped out of the state or country to be processed into finished wood products. As a result western New York does not receive the "value added" benefit from processing. We also know that "where wood is harvested and processed locally into secondary wood products, such as dimension lumber, the multipliers for the wood harvesting sector can reach induced multipliers of over 5. This is very high, as most industries usually have induced multipliers between 2 and 4 in most rural areas". We need to support activities that capture the economic values of New York wood products and keep those economic benefits in New York.

*Just The Facts, An Overview of New York’s Wood Based Economy and Forest Resource, H. Canham, and Kevin King, Empire State Forest Products Association ( and New York Center for Forestry Research and Development, 1998 (

*The Economic Importance of New York’s Forest, Northeastern Forest Alliance, Forest Resource in New York, 1989.

Capturing the Potential of New York’s Forest, Report of the Governor’s Task Force on Forest Industry, Executive Summary, 1989.

Farmland Preservation

Conflicts regarding land use management are taking place within the Lake Plains region. Competition from residential and commercial development is adversely effecting the availability of prime and unique farmland as well as quality open space. Although, agriculture is still a primary industry of the six county area (Ag. products marketed in 1997 exceeded a value of $440 million), NY Ag statistics from 1980-1997 show a drastic decline in the number of farms. In 1980 there were 6,003 active farms. In the year 1997 the number of farms dropped to 4,655 representing a 22 % decline in number of farms. In addition to urban development pressures, other factors contributing to the reduction in number of farms and farmland acreage include but are not limited to: high taxes, high cost of machinery, fuel, maintenance, loss of viable markets and loss of farm labor. American Farmland Trust on March 20, 1997 identified the Ontario Plan and Finger Lakes region of western New York as the 11th most threatened agricultural area in the United States. American Farmland Trust stated "America’s best farmland is in trouble, and the problem is particularly acute in the Ontario Plain and Finger Lakes Region." said Jerry Cosgrove, AFT’s New York field director. "Acre by acre, the region’s farmland is being overrun and destroyed by scattershot urban development. Suburban sprawl is consuming some of the nations best agricultural land, causing inefficient use of land, roads, and other infrastructure and creating serious traffic, congestion and air pollution problems."

Agricultural Promotion

Agriculture continues to be the number one industry in New York State and significantly influences the economies of the six counties in the Lake Plains region ( The agricultural sector is noted for its apples, cherries, grapes and wine, and the large volume of locally grown produce supports one of the state's largest food processing industries. However, for more than a decade agricultural enterprises throughout the region as well as the rest of New York have been faced with narrower profit margins. In an attempt to subsidize current incomes many farms and agriculturally related organizations are promoting and exploring how existing farm operations can diversify into a variety of unique enterprises which are appealing to the non-farm tourists. Such endeavors include bed and breakfasts, farm tours, raising exotic livestock, as well as more traditional operations such as u-pick and roadside stands to name just a few. As our population continues to become more urbanized fewer people realize the importance of local agriculture on their own standard of living and quality of life. The need exists to promote local agricultural products by encouraging the consumption of locally grown commodities as well as educating the consumer with factual information on farming and dispelling misinformation. In addition the opportunity exists to focus attention on agri-tourism enterprises which can prove to be valuable in enticing tourists to stay longer in the region. Such extended lengths of stay can equate to additional tourist dollars, which are produced by a multiplier effect that requires the additional service of travel, related enterprises i.e.: hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and retail stores. The checkerboard land use pattern created by farmlands is an integral part of the scenic beauty of the area. Without the pasture, hayland, cropland, and open space associated with agriculture the region’s scenery wouldn’t be the same. (

Farm Labor

Farmers, growers, greenhouse operators, nursery managers, and others in related industries have become increasingly concerned about labor issues during the past few years. The plethora of laws, regulations, and rules that apply to their workers, coupled with shifts in labor force trends, have made good workers harder to find. The agricultural industry as a whole needs and wants to know more about labor issues and their possible solutions.

Solid Waste Management

The six Counties that make up the Lake Plains RC&D Area have 186 targeted hazardous material landfills as identified by the ENYSDEC and NYS Department of Health publication "Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites in NY" published in April 1998. Problems associated with these sites are contaminated surface and ground water supplies, contaminated soils, as well as wells needing carbon filters. Known carcinogens and toxins such as arsenic, chromium, selenium, PCB's, cyanides, nickel, dieldrin, lead, TCA, TCE, magnesium are causes of such contamination’s. In order to comply with mandated procedures to close and clean up these sites local units of governments will be faced with substantial financial burdens. (

Brownfields Restoration

One of the most important needs within the Lake Plains RC&D area is to rehabilitate the environmentally contaminated properties, which are now being called brownfields. These sites are usually the result of manufacturing or industrial activities, which took place decades ago. These brownfield properties are underused because of unresolved environmental and liability issues. These properties frequently are centrally located, have good access to transportation routes and are served by existing infrastructure, making them prime locations for economic development. Providing the financial, legal and program incentives to facilitate brownfield redevelopment by making these properties more competitive and desirable than greenfield alternatives is an important issue in our area. At the local level, the impetus for brownfield redevelopment is economic growth. While many State development and financing programs focus on environmental protection, in recent years a greater emphasis has been given to redevelopment of these properties. The State has developed many programs directed toward the redevelopment of brownfields. Brownfields redevelopment can be integral part of local community economic develop efforts. Brownfield redevelopment can also have an impact on protection of open space by focusing development away from open spaces and toward areas with existing services, by putting properties back onto the tax rolls, by beautifying our communities and by attracting economic growth. (NYS Quality Communities Task Force Partnering for a Better New York January 2001)

Socio-Economic Factors:


The population of the six county area is 2,103,760 (2000 census). Approximately 20% of the population live in rural areas. The largest cities in the RC&D area are Buffalo the 2nd largest city in New York State with a population of 292,648 and Rochester which has a population of 219,773. Most of the population in the region is concentrated around these metropolitan areas. Overall the six county region has experience little growth over the last ten years gaining just 9,475 people over the last ten years based on the 2000 census just completed. Most of the larger cities lost population (Buffalo (-10.8%), Rochester (–5.1%), and Niagara Falls (-10.1%), many suburbs grew in population, while the rural counties of Orleans and Wayne showed population growth of 5.6 to 5.2%. The Counties of Erie and Niagara showed a small lost of population of –1.9 and –0.4%.

Industrial and Commercial

The Western New York Region is a major industrial and commercial center; it is the 16th largest manufacturing center in the nation. It is strategically located on two Great Lakes, Erie, and Ontario, and on the Canadian border. Western New York's prime location as a centerpoint of east-west and north-south trade has made it a major transportation hub, linking Midwestern, Canadian and Eastern markets. About 55 percent of the U.S. population and 62 percent of the Canadian population reside within 500 miles of the region.

Manufacturers of such hard goods as transportation equipment, machinery, and fabricated metal products have traditionally made their home in the region. Leading manufacturers and service companies who base their operations here include: Fisher-Price/Mattel (East Aurora), Delaware North (Buffalo), Mark IV Industries (Amherst) and Lucas Varity (Buffalo). Other well-known manufacturers include General Motors, Dresser-Rand, the Ford Motor Company, Delphi Harrison Thermal Systems, Moog, Inc. and American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc., all of which have undergone expansions in recent years. Equally important, it is a center for manufacturing and advanced technologies. Western New York is a growing high-technology center, with a network of incubators and specialized technical assistance programs.

The area's excellent transportation systems, highly educated workforce, and international presence in high technology have helped make Rochester a leading export city. The central location in New York State places it in close proximity to 10 of the largest cities in North America. The production of photographic equipment and supplies is a major industry, largely represented by the Eastman Kodak Company, Bausch & Lomb and Xerox Corp., but supported by numerous other smaller companies. There is also significant employment in the manufacture of transportation equipment, biomedical instruments, and metal fabrication. (Empire State Development 5/25/01)


The area is home to numerous colleges and professional programs ranging from large public universities to small private colleges. Together these schools offer advanced programs in computer sciences, optics, laser technology, chemistry, graphic technology, ceramics, agribusiness, and other emerging fields. The state's Center for Advanced Technology in Electronic Imaging Systems is located at the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology, along with the Center for Optics Manufacturing and the Laser Energetics Laboratory; the Rochester Institute of Technology houses the Center for Imaging Science. The University of Buffalo is the largest campus in the State University of New York System, with enrollment of 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It is one of the major research universities in North America, housing medical, dental, pharmaceutical, and law schools and a full range of masters and doctoral programs. (Empire State Development 5/25/01)


An efficient transportation system is critical to the economic viability of the six county regions. A joint study conducted by NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) and NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets in 1984, entitled "Rural Roads & Bridge Survey," found that nearly eight out of every ten bridges were structurally deficient or obsolete. Therefore, were too narrow or could not carry the weights of trucks, tractors, and other farm implements. Although progress has been made to reduce the number of deficient bridges, the local governments of each of these counties are faced with the task of rebuilding a total of 40 bridges that cross the Barge Canal. These deficient bridges pose a number of problems such as extensive detours, inadequate fire protection, limits timeliness of emergency vehicles, and causes excessive fuel consumption. Added to these difficulties is the fact that such bridges are under the jurisdiction of various local governments with minimum dollars allocated to rehabilitate these structures. In a more recent report titled New York State's Roads and Bridges: A Report on Conditions, Current Use And Ability to Meet Future Travel Needs May 1999 The Road Information Program stated: New York has the highest percentage of bridges in the country in need of repair or improvement – 59 percent – nearly twice as high as the national average of 30 percent. New York's roads and bridges have significant deterioration primarily due to inadequate funding. As a result, the state's motorists are paying $876 million in additional vehicle operating costs to drive on roads in need of repair or improvement. Total additional costs, per driver, that motorists pay because of traffic congestion and extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) due to driving on substandard roads are: Rochester $488; and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, $368. Congestion slows commutes, reduces economic productivity, worsens air quality, and adds to motorists' fuel costs. In addition the report stated Vehicle travel in Rochester jumped 58 percent from 1986 to 1996 and 24 percent in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area during the same period. (



Updated: 3/20/07