Photo: Bill Hecht

Conservation Easement Helps Protect Ithaca’s Drinking Water

The Land Trust permanently protected 167 forested acres within the towns of Dryden and Caroline through the use of a perpetual conservation easement. Nearly all of the property is located within the Six Mile Creek watershed, the source of Ithaca’s drinking water.

The land was donated to the Land Trust in June of this year and recently sold to a private individual subject to an easement prohibiting subdivision. Timber harvesting will only be allowed under guidelines that demonstrate how water quality will be maintained and development will be limited to a single recreational cabin. The property does not include road frontage and is accessed by a legal right-of-way.

Photo: Chris Ray

This land donation was made in memory of Helen Edwards, who had deep connections to Ithaca and a long professional history at Cornell University. It was her intention to donate the land before she died prematurely from cancer.

As development pressures in the Finger Lakes region increase, the Land Trust is working to counter threats to water quality by buffering our streams. Protection of undeveloped lands allows for absorption of storm water and its gradual release into streams such as Six Mile Creek. Large, intact forested parcels also help minimize erosion and runoff through their extensive root systems which help bind soil together.

The City of Ithaca has committed to sourcing its drinking water from Six Mile Creek. In 2015, the City initiated a $35 million dollar project to rebuild the 112 year-old drinking water treatment facility, refurbish the drinking water supply line, upgrade facilities at the dam and intake structure, and dredge the reservoir and siltation pond upstream of the reservoir. Maintaining high quality water in Six Mile Creek is a priority.

“The most effective way to ensure continued high quality water for habitat and for human consumption is to protect the source,” said Michael Thorne, Superintendent of Public Works for the City of Ithaca. “Easements like this provide that protection and safeguard our water resource for future generations.”

This is the Land Trust 26th protection project within the Six Mile Creek watershed.  In addition to conservation easements on private lands, the organization also owns the Roy H. Park and Peter Rinaldo Nature Preserves – both of which border Six Mile Creek.

Conservation easements are legal agreements that limit future development while allowing land to remain in private ownership and on the tax rolls. Landowners who donate conservation easements may be eligible for both state and federal tax benefits.