Critical Area Seeding: Road Banks
Cayuga County, NY

Grantee: Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $15,000
Non-federal Funds: $15,000
Project Duration: 06/1998 - 03/1999
Status: complete

Problem Statement
According to a New York state Department of Environmental Conservation report, road banks in Cayuga County contribute an average of 60 tons of sediment per mile to the county's Lake Ontario sub-watershed. With over 3,000 miles of road banks in the county, this is potentially a significant source of sediment and nutrients to the watershed.

A roadbank showing before and after reseeding.

In a 1975 report, "Erosion and Sediment Inventory," the Department of Environmental Conservation's Division of Water found that road bank erosion can contribute a significant amount of sediment with attached nutrients and chemicals to the Lake Ontario watershed. In the water, sediment and associated chemicals degrade water quality, fish and wildlife habitat. The degree of erosion varies according to the state of the road bank, the type of soil, the amount of cover and the slope of the bank, however, the average loss in Cayuga County is 60 tons per mile. This means degraded water quality, the potential for flooding because of decreased stream capacity, as well as increased maintenance costs for the county highway department.

Many of the most highly erodible areas in Cayuga County have been identified. The remainder of the sites must be identified and appropriate best management practices (BMPs) implemented. For this type of erosion, critical area seeding is an inexpensive and successful BMP to use. Established seeding will stabilize highly erodible areas, preventing further erosion. Permanent vegetative cover can reduce surface run-off by 50 to 90% depending on vegetation type and density. Corresponding soil loss in surface run-off can be reduced by up to 95% and nitrogen loss by up to 90%.

The conservation district developed partnerships with town and county highway departments to identify road banks most in need of seeding and develop an inventory for future projects. The partnership seeded 6.85 acres of highly erodible road bank, choosing two locations as demonstration sites. At these areas, located in the town of Aurelius, signs have been installed to draw public attention to the project site. The conservation district included an article on the seeding project in its monthly newsletter, Conservation Highlights, which is distributed to the county legislature, other conservation districts and the general public. A picture of the demonstration site is also available on the district's web site.

Contact: Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District, (315) 252-4171


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