Riparian Erosion Control Education Project
Cayuga County, NY

Grantee: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County
Basin Program Funds: $15,671
Non-federal Funds: $6,233
Project Duration: 07/2002 - 06/2003
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Owasco and Cayuga Lakes are impaired by excessive loadings of sediment and nutrients. The lakes are listed in the New York State’s 1996 Priority Waterbodies List for the Oswego-Seneca-Oneida River Basin, which states that several of the major tributaries to both lakes contribute sediments, nutrients and pesticides from streambank erosion to Owasco and Cayuga lakes. Sediment deposition creates turbidity and excessive weed growth in lakes that are major sources of drinking water for residents of Cayuga County.

The Water Quality Study of the Finger Lakes, published in 2001 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, lists sediments and nutrients as major polluters of Owasco and Cayuga lakes. Protecting riparian areas in the Owasco Lake watershed has also been identified as a priority with the addition of the Owasco Lake Watershed Stream and Lakeshore Buffer Initiative to New York State's Open Space Plan Supplemental List.

Riparian landowners may not understand how their activities directly impact water quality conditions, or how their actions affect the larger picture. A property owner adjacent to a minor tributary of Cayuga Lake may not realize that his or her actions can affect the health of the entire Great Lakes basin. Individuals may perceive their actions as insignificant because they do not understand cumulative impacts.

Public education campaigns on erosion control have been conducted in the past in neighboring areas of the Finger Lakes. Past educational efforts addressed remediation techniques for accelerated erosion, but failed to give much needed attention to protecting the quality of the water that still inevitably runs off the land and into surface water bodies.

Toolbox development will be a major task of the work team. The team will identify existing resources that address residential and riparian erosion control techniques, focusing on those that address vegetative and soft engineering methods. Effort will be made to utilize existing resources but if the work team determines that existing resources are inadequate, new publications will be developed to fill gaps.

The work team will develop and implement several workshops tailored to the needs of the specific audience. The workshops will present background information on the Great Lakes basin watershed and its subwatersheds, including the Cayuga and Owasco lake watersheds. The workshops will focus on landscaping techniques for erosion control and integrated pest management (IPM) methods for maintaining new and existing riparian landscapes. Toolboxes will be distributed to all attendees.

A website will be developed to supplement information included in the toolboxes and workshops. The website will also function as a stand-alone learning tool for riparian property owners who wish to learn more about local watersheds and landscaping for erosion control but do not have physical access to the workshops or a toolbox. The website will enable the proposed education project to be disseminated to the Great Lakes basin at large.

Printed materials and resources were researched, identified and assembled into 200 toolboxes. A total of 180 toolboxes were distributed to workshop participants, lake associations, and other interested stakeholders. Workshops ranging from two hours to full-day presentations were promoted and delivered to landscape, lawn care, and garden center professionals on IPM techniques and to riparian and lakeshore property owners on creating backyard buffers for erosion control and water quality. Follow-up mail survey was developed and sent to all program participants.

The Fly Over/3d-Visualization of the Seneca River watershed and surrounding area has been demonstrated for more than 100 people. More demonstrations and hands-on use is planned for youth and adults, including schoolchildren, 4-H groups, and others. To date, 16 residents have borrowed the Fly Over CD and used it on their personal computers.

Websites, resources, and practical information on riparian and shoreline erosion control, backyard buffers, buying plant materials, lawn care practices utilizing integrated pest management and more are available at the developed web site. See:

Contact: Ms. Kelly Sevier Fallone, 315-255-1183


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