Oswego River Erosion Control Project
Oswego County, NY

Grantee: Oswego County Planning and Community Development
Basin Program Funds: $13,022
Non-federal Funds: $6,529
Project Duration: 05/1997 - 06/2000
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Residential development along the Oswego River, in New York state’s Lake Ontario watershed, has removed both native ground cover vegetation and trees. This causes accelerated soil loss and stream bank erosion while increasing the amount of sediment and pollutants, such as fertilizers and pesticides, that enter the river. Boats with excessive wakes also add to stream bank erosion problems. As a result, fish and wildlife habitat is disrupted and the canal’s aesthetic appeal is reduced. Nonpoint source pollution impacts the river, Oswego Harbor and Lake Ontario.

Numerous studies have identified sediment problems along the Oswego River and in the Harbor. For example, the Oswego County Water Quality Strategy concluded that the Oswego River upstream from the Harbor to the junction at Three Rivers is impaired due to silt and sedimentation. The Oswego River has been placed on New York's Priority Water Problem List and identified for preservation of scenic qualities under the State Canal System Revitalization Plan. Additionally, Oswego Harbor has been designated an Area of Concern under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the resulting Remedial Action Plan (RAP) is designed to reduce sediment and nonpoint source pollution inputs into the Oswego Harbor.

The Oswego County Planning and Community Development office proposed a three part program to identify erosion problems on the river, prioritize the identified areas with recommended actions and develop an outreach program directed to local governments and property owners.

A visual survey and video tape record of the Oswego River shoreline provided the raw data that enabled erosion problems to be identified. Geographical Information System (GIS) maps were then created to identify shoreline, stream banks and other areas requiring protective and/or remedial action.

The team assessed development pressures on riparian property based upon municipal development plans. They produced a report titled The Determination of Buffer Widths: Literature Survey and Recommendations for Oswego County, New York. The team used the report to prepare a model ordinance that would encourage the creation of a riparian buffer zone between development and the river bank. They disseminated the ordinance to municipal governments and planning boards throughout the county.

The team developed an educational outreach program which addressed current land use and erosion conditions, remedial measures, environmental impact and outlined the economic benefits of proper streambank management. At a public meeting held in June 1998, over 120 people heard presentations from the Oswego County Environmental Management Council, the Department of Planning and Community Development and the Soil and Water Conservation District. Attendees also received a number of pamphlets designed by the project team, Cornell University Cooperative Extension and US Department of Agriculture–Natural Resources Conservation Service. Conservation district staff offered assistance to riparian landowners requesting a site visit and erosion evaluation. Many site visits have resulted from this event.

Following the public meeting, Oswego County planning personnel presented information at municipal planning board meetings for nine municipalities along the corridor, as well as sessions of the Environmental Management Council. These events reached some 110 local legislators. The model ordinance was announced through the press and communicated directly to the New York State Canal Corporation and the Oswego County Sheriff. News releases and newsletters potentially reached an audience of over 120,000. Educational opportunities were arranged for over 6,000 boaters, shoreline owners and members of the general public.

The success of the initial erosion control project enabled the Oswego County Planning and Community Development office to leverage additional funds from the Rural New York Grant Program. Over the summer of 2000, an Oswego River Steward delivered an information/education program based upon issues raised at the 1998 public meeting. The Steward met boaters at locks, posted information at marinas and handed out pamphlets on maintaining courtesy wakes and exotic species. This is a continuing effort to identify ways to improve the corridor.

Contact: Oswego County Planning and Community Development, (315) 349-8292


Great Lakes Commission des Grands Lacs.  2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 100.  Ann Arbor, MI  48104-6791.  phone: 734/971.9135.  fax: 734/971-9150.  projects.glc.org. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner