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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Introducing the recently established Ontario Lake Plains Resource Conservation and Development Council (Lake Plains RC&D) office, located in Albion, New York. The Lake Plains RC&D area was authorized by the Secretary of Agriculture in March of 1998 and currently includes Erie, Genesee, Orleans, Monroe, Niagara and Wayne Counties. Designation of the area as a Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) area was supported by legislative resolutions of the six counties identified above. Lake Plains RC&D Council, Inc. was formed for the purpose of increasing the cooperation between the member goals, and strategies. The objectives include:

  1. To develop and implement resource conservation and development programs in an effort to improve living and economic conditions within the six county area,
  2. To coordinate and assist in implementing the goals, and strategies.

The objectives include:

  1. To develop and implement resource conservation and development programs in an effort to improve living and economic conditions within the six county area,
  2. To coordinate and assist in implementing the local and regional development plans of the other organizations and agencies,
  3. To secure the needed technical, financial, educational, and other services required to develop and implement appropriate project measures,
  4. To utilize local private resources to the utmost in preference to aid from government sources.
General Description of the Area The Lake Plains RC&D area (2,378,600 acres in size) is located in Western New York. Lake Ontario forms the northern boundary, Lake Erie and the Niagara River (Canadian border) create the western boundary, Seneca Trail RC&D and Sullivan Trail RC&D form the southern boundary, and Cayuga County forms the eastern boundary. The region is often referred to as the "Lake Plains Region". Agriculture comprises a major part of the economies of the six counties. In fact, agricultural land use occurs on approximately 38% of the total land area or 899,000 acres. The 4,655 farms in the six counties produce agricultural goods valued at $440 million in 1997. Farms are generally small in size averaging 193 acres. The region has a high percentage of prime and unique farmland. The favorable climate, fairly large acreage of good soils, and excellent markets contribute to a diversified agriculture. The moderation of temperature by air currents passing over Lake Erie and Lake Ontario make the region ideal for growing peaches, cherries, apples, and other fruits as well as a variety of vegetables. Vineyards are also found in the area. The region's forest resources are also abundant. Forested lands constitute 845,000 acres or approximately 35% of the land area.


Lake Plains RC&D Council, Inc.

The Lake Plains RC&D Council, Inc. is an independent 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization directed by local citizens. A 501 (c) (3) is an organization designated by the IRS as a "Charitable Organization"; donations to Organizations with 501 (c) (3) tax status can be tax deductible.


What Is The Resource Conservation & Development
(RC&D) Program

The RC&D is a national program that helps communities improve their economies through the wise use and development of natural resources. Currently there are 315 RC&D Areas designated for USDA assistance by the Secretary of Agriculture. In New York, communities have used the RC&D program to improve watershed conditions, attract new forest industries, upgrade town parks, and improve farm profits. The purpose of the RC&D program is to accelerate the conservation, development and utilization of natural resources, improve the general level of economic activity, and to enhance the environment and standard of living in authorized RC&D areas. It improves the capability of State, Tribal and Local units of government and local nonprofit organizations in rural areas to plan, develop and carry out programs for resource conservation and development. The program also establishes or improves coordination systems in rural areas. The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) provides administrative support for the RC&D program including office space and staff. Current program objectives focus on improvement of quality of life achieved through natural resources conservation and community development which leads to sustainable communities, prudent use (development), and the management and conservation of natural resources.


How Does The RC&D Program Work

Local people plan and carry out programs in each RC&D area through the RC&D Council, which includes representatives from local sponsoring agencies and groups. The RC&D Council and committee members include people from all walks of life - farmers, bankers, politicians, consumers, business people and others who volunteer their time to help make their community a better place to live. The Council identifies the community needs, plan projects to address those needs and secures help from appropriate state, federal, and private agencies to get the job done. The Council also appoints committees to advise on specific natural resource areas of concern, such as recreation, watershed protection, agriculture and forestry. Committee members usually include interested citizens with expertise in the committee's area of responsibility and professional advisers from local, state, and federal agencies. In New York the RC&D program serves over half the state.

These meetings have been attended by representatives of local governments, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, state and federal governments, county governments, Environmental Management Councils, Grange, Farm Bureau, Federations of Sportsmen, local Cooperative Extension Offices, Chambers of Commerce, County Water Quality Strategy Committees, County Planning Boards, and County Economic/Industrial Development agencies. These meetings focused upon soliciting information on the problems of the area and establishing a sense of priority for local issues. High priority issues identified during these sessions included farmland protection, water quality, recreation, tourism, improvement of infrastructure, and marketing of Agricultural (Ag) products.

The Lake Plains RC&D Council conducts official meetings six times per year. The meetings are open to the public. The members of the Council represent the following sponsoring organizations: each of the six county legislatures; each of the six soil and water conservation districts; and at-large members from each county. In addition, there are regular ex-officio members representing such groups as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Cornell Cooperative Extension Service (CCE), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Rural Development (RD), NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, US Forest Service and various and private organizations and groups. At its annual meeting in February of each year, the Council elects officers, and reports on the previous year's accomplishments.


The Lake Plains RC&D Council has identified its immediate goals to be the following:
  1. To Cooperate with local and state agencies in identifying sources of technical and financial assistance available for improving farm labor training.
  2. Assist in the coordination of regional recreational and tourism activities.
  3. Cooperate with the county water quality strategy committees and other cooperating agencies to determine technical and financial solutions to abate surface and ground water problems.
  4. Promote local agricultural products and enterprises to encourage consumption and rural development.
  5. Advocate activities both educational and legislative that will encourage farmland preservation.
  6. Assist local government in finding economically viable solutions to infrastructure problems such as inadequate roads and bridges, as well as, the closure of hazardous waste sites.

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. Examples of these sources of pollution include agricultural and heavy industrial contamination as well as inadequate septic disposal. Within the Great Lakes chain 40 "hot spots" have been identified by the International Great Lakes Commission and the Environmental Protection agency as requiring immediate remediation. Three of these "hotspots", the Niagara River (Erie and Niagara County); Rochester Embayment (Monroe & Genesee Counties); and Eighteen Mile Creek (Niagara County) are located within the Lake Plains RC&D Area. Pesticides and inorganic fertilizers applied to high value specialty crops in excessive amounts pose a potential hazard for sources of both ground and surface water. Additionally dairy, beef, hog, sheep, and poultry farms produce tons of manure annually, that is often applied to area soils in excess of tolerable limits which increase nutrient levels in surface and ground water supplies. Erosion and sediment from commercial and residential construction sites as well as highway construction is contributing to the degradation of the region's water quality. According to the June 1996 NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Non-point Assessment Report (NAR) which was submitted to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 95 streams in the Ontario Lake Plains RC&D area are considered impaired, stressed, or threatened by various non-point sources of pollution and are high priority candidates for watershed planning.

Water Management
170 miles of shoreline along Lake Ontario 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. 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. Closely associated with such shoreline erosion is the continual need for stream channel maintenance and protection. According to New York's EASI study there are more than 6,200 miles of stream bank in the five county Ontario Lake Plain area, which annually lose more than 732 thousand tons of soil. This stream bank erosion often threatens roads, bridges, and other infrastructure facilities, as well as inhibits travel of daily traffic such as school buses, emergency vehicles, as well as private and commercial vehicles.

Recreation
Recreation and tourism also play a significant part in the economies of these six counties. 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 in the area. Niagara Falls and the Seaway Trail Scenic By-Way also exist within the RC&D area. The Lake Plains RC&D Area also lies within the North Atlantic Flyway of migrating waterfowl. One federal wildlife preserve (Iroquois) as well as two state wildlife refuges (Tonawanda and Oak Orchard) provide both passive (bird watching) and active (hunting) recreation. Through extensive efforts of the state and federal governments to reduce toxins, phosphorous, and sediment levels over the past 13 years water quality in Lake Ontario has improved. In the early and mid 1980's the Lake 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. 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 Ontario Lake Plains RC&D area.

Solid Waste Management
Genesee, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, and Wayne Counties contain 153 targeted hazardous material landfills as identified by the NYSDEC and NYS Department of Health publication "Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites in NY" published in April 1993. Erie County has the highest number of superfund sites in the state. 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.

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. 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.

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.

Infrastructure
An efficient transportation system is critical to the economic viability of this six county region. 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.

Socio-economic Factors
The total population of the area (according to the 1990 Census) is 2,094,285. Most of these people are located in the major urban areas of Buffalo and Rochester. The work ethic of the area is very strong but, even with the various and sundry industries present, unemployment within the area is higher than for the rest of the State and the Nation. Much of the unemployment is due to small rural businesses going under and the fact that agricultural producers are being forced to shut down for lack of competitive pricing and adequate markets within the industry. Although metropolitan Rochester with its extensive manufacturing keeps unemployment relatively low and incomes high in Monroe County, even the mega giants such as Kodak have been downsizing their workforces. Such downsizing will have adverse effects on the region's overall economy and employment levels. This coupled with the already lost manufacturing opportunities of the smaller cities such as Batavia will lead to a substantial jump in the unemployment rate in the near future. In addition, the traditional fruit and vegetable agriculture of the area is suffering due to lack of solid reliable markets, outside controlled prices of goods, and very severe competition for land resources (i.e. urban sprawl). Therefore, a major focus for the RC&D Council is to network with the private and public economic development and agriculture related groups to remedy the economic condition of the region. The rural nature of the area and its downward economic trend must be reversed if the area is to become prosperous again.


Lake Plains RC&D Council Activities

Forestry Committee Activities: The council formed a Forestry Committee in 1996. Since their formation the committee has sponsored a yearly forest owner's workshop. Topics such as forest management and the environment, forest skills education, timber sales contracts, and timber trespass have all been presented

1996 - The Council sponsored a project to plant American Chestnut trees on public lands throughout the RC&D area. They have networked with the American Chestnut Foundation to both plant seedlings and distribute educational information about the American Chestnut to the general public.

1997 - A woodlot workshop was completed in co-sponsorship with the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District in 1997. It was well attended with over 200 people gaining educational ideas on care and utilization of their woodlot properties.
1997 - The Council sponsored and conducted a daylong seminar in December 1997 on the installation of Dry Fire Hydrants for the rural communities. This session dealt with the benefits, design, installation, and maintenance of these much-needed infrastructures additions.

1998 - The Lake Plains RC&D was involved in the Niagara Frontier Forest Owner Workshop on March 21, 1998 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Niagara County Education Center in Lockport, New York. Approximately 300 people attended.
1998 - The Lake Plains RC&D hosted a fall Woodlot Owners Workshop on October 3, 1998 at the Genesee County Park and Forest Interpretive Center in Bethany, New York. Many workshops were held including chain saw safety, wetlands wildlife habitat, and taxation in relation to woodlot ownership. Approximately 60 people attended including presenters.

1999 - The Ontario Lake Plains RC&D helped publicize the following Forestry programs offered through other New York RC&D Councils: The Greater Adirondack RC&D Council in association with the US Forest Service and NYSDEC provides wood product industries with the opportunity to exhibit and attend the worlds largest wholesale forest products show in Cologne, Germany. New York's Wood Products Companies on the Internet: The Sullivan Trail RC&D Council through a NYSDEC Forest Service grant offered assistance to New York Forest and Wood products companies through technical assistance and cost sharing for Internet Web Site development.

Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative
Lake Plains RC&D entered into a contract with the NRCS to provide Grazing Land Advocates to make contacts with area farmers to promote grassland farming. In addition to providing two advocates the Ontario Lake Plains RC&D has sponsored three pasture walks in 1999. A workshop was held in Corfu, New York on March 20, 1998. There were 25 attendees and a pasture walk was hosted at John & Linda Cecchini's Stone Barn Farm in Medina on August 28, 1998. The Advocates have made approximately 300 contacts in 1998/1999. This program is part of the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, to promote the use of grasslands farming through intensive use of pastures for raising livestock.

Agri-Tourism
Genesee County Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) received a grant of $5,000 from NY Farms for development of educational materials for promotion of local products. Lake Plains RC&D Council is actively supporting this "BUY WNY - LOCAL LABEL INITIATIVE." The second phase of the initiative will be an Agri-Tourism initiative to promote local food in restaurants, festivals, farm tours and other events. Special recognition goes out to Pat LaPoint, Genesee County CCE for all her good work.

Rural Communities Tree Restoration Project
This project will assist local communities in the re-planting of trees lost due to the Labor Day storm event on September 7, 1998. This storm caused extensive damage and loss of trees in Western New York communities.

Greenhouse Hay Drying
Using Solar Energy Chases' Nursery a family operation has offered to demonstrate how with relatively low cost investments, it can efficiently and profitably dry hay utilizing its greenhouses. Hay drying is done during the nursery's off-season (June 1st to September 15th) when hay production is at its peak. The RC&D Council is assisting by trying to find funding resources. Financial assistance is needed to design and install ventilation systems and conduct evaluations of effectiveness. Regional benefits would be higher quality hay, better return for farmers, and the natural resource benefits due to the incentive to grow hay instead of potential erosive row crops. Special thanks goes out to Selden Chase and Chase's Nursery for their willingness to put the time and effort into this project as well as share this idea with others.

Envirothon
The RC&D is providing support to local Envirothon efforts by supplying educational resources, and developing test questions and other administrative support.

Springdale Farm - Demonstration Farm
As a member of the Springdale Farm Advisory Group the RC&D Council is helping to develop a strategic plan to address needs of the public while also providing a quality education program focused on agriculture and environmental education.

Science, Mathematics, Agriculture, and Related Technologies (SMART) Center
A proposed regional year round science education center, focused to teach all aspects of science education using agriculture and environment issues as the theme. The SMART Center would be a premier facility that will be designed as an education center for all ages. The proposed location for the SMART Center is the Genesee County Fair Grounds east of Batavia, New York. Martin Culik, Executive Director of Genesee County CCE is spearheading this effort and Ontario Lake Plains RC&D is providing help in the planning process.

Watershed Enhancement Projects
The Council is supporting the Village of Lyndonville (Orleans County, New York) in its efforts to develop a restoration plan for the Johnson Pond area. The village is concerned that hazardous substances may have been discharged into the Johnson Creek upstream of the village. The village wishes to remove the accumulated sediments and to make improvements to the area. The Council worked on a proposed project with Monroe County to import stormwater management methods. The proposed project Dry Basin Conversion to Wetlands Initiative would convert dry basin stormwater facilities to constructed wetlands to improve sediment control, slow water flow, improve habitat for wildlife, and improve aesthetics. A project was co-sponsored in Monroe County to stabilize stream banks in Linear Park .

The Beauty of the RC&D Program
Environmental problems do not stop at township, county or state boundaries and that is where the beauty and flexibility of the RC&D program comes into play. The RC&D program was designed to handle multi-county partnerships with private individuals, private companies and public agencies to assemble resources to help correct environmental problems or any other problem where council members feel they can help.

The Ontario Lake Plains RC&D Council looks forward to working together with and supporting member sponsors, groups, agencies, schools, and individuals to enhance the quality of life and environment for residents and visitors to the area.

Your support, participation, and interest in the Ontario Lake Plains RC&D activities would be appreciated. For further information contact Robert Remillard at the address show below or call 716-589-5320 ext. 102

ONTARIO LAKE PLAINS RC&D
446 WEST AVENUE, ALBION,
NY 14411

RC&D is a program supported by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in its programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audio tape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (Voice and TTD). To file a complaint write USDA, Director; Office of Civil Rights, Room 326W; Whiten Building; 14th and Independence Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (Voice and TTD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

 

 


Updated: 3/20/07