Partnership Helps Protect Cayuga Inlet Water Quality

The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and The Wetland Trust, Inc. (TWT) permanently protected 43 acres just south of Ithaca in the town of Newfield, Tompkins County.

The project was funded in part through the state’s Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) Program which directly improves water quality or aquatic habitat, promotes flood risk reduction, restoration, and enhanced flood and climate resiliency, or protects a drinking water source.

FLLT acquired the 43-acre property using a portion of a $921,000 WQIP grant awarded by DEC in December 2018. Following closing, the property was conveyed to TWT with a deed restriction that limits the use of the land to protect water quality in the inlet. The property features more than 5,000 feet of undeveloped frontage on the Cayuga Inlet as well as wetlands that filter runoff to the inlet and Cayuga Lake.

A stream bordered by tall trees with fall colors

Photo: FLLT

Protection of this property helps prevent development that would disrupt critical buffers along the inlet. Natural vegetated buffers along streams and wetlands are particularly important as they can filter and absorb pollutants from stormwater that could otherwise enter the waterbody.

“Protecting water quality is a top priority for DEC and our land trust partners throughout New York State,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “By working with partners like the Finger Lakes Land Trust and the Wetland Land Trust, DEC is safeguarding a drinking water source and a key natural buffer along Cayuga Inlet for generations to come.”

“This acquisition will help ensure water quality within Cayuga Lake while also securing important habitat for fish and wildlife,” said FLLT Executive Director Andrew Zepp. “Protecting this land from development also means that its floodplains will continue to minimize flooding downstream.”

Protection of this property also adds to a growing network of conserved lands in this area. The FLLT currently owns two nature preserves that border the inlet – the Tapan Mitra Preserve in Ithaca and the Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve in West Danby.

New York’s Commitment to Clean Water

WQIP is a competitive, reimbursement grant program that funds projects that improve water quality or aquatic habitat, promote flood risk reduction, restoration, and enhanced flood and climate resiliency, or protect a drinking water source. Under this grant program, DEC announced more than $65 million for 51 land acquisition projects to date. In addition to land acquisition projects for source water protection, WQIP grants may be awarded for wastewater treatment improvement, non-agricultural nonpoint source abatement and control, vacuum trucks in municipal storm sewer system areas, salt storage, dam safety repair/rehabilitation, aquatic connectivity restoration, and marine district habitat restoration.