Lake Revitalization Completed Ahead of Schedule; New Habitat Improvements Slated for 2017
Governor Directs DEC to Host Three Additional Public Information Sessions on Natural Resources Damage Assessment
Planned Boat Launch will Reconnect Public with Onondaga Lake
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that the capping of the Onondaga Lake bottom is now complete.
"The completion of this project to revitalize Onondaga Lake marks a major milestone for Central New York that will improve the quality of life for residents, and opens up additional opportunities for tourism, outdoor recreation and economic development for the entire region," Governor Cuomo said. "This work will help ensure that the lake remains a clean, viable natural resource for generations to come."
During the revitalization of Onondaga Lake, a total of 2.2 million cubic yards of sediment was hydraulically dredged from the bottom of the lake and adjacent shoreline areas from 2012 to 2014, and approximately 3.1 million cubic yards of cap material was placed in Onondaga Lake from 2012 to 2016. Honeywell’s completion of the dredging and capping is a significant benchmark in the revitalization of Onondaga Lake.
The cap consists of layers of sand, gravel, and topsoil, which range from four to 66 inches in thickness. The cap is designed to isolate remaining contaminants from the water column. The cap was put down in layers and becomes more stable with time. In addition, naturally occurring sedimentation is expected to further increase the cap thickness and is occurring faster than anticipated. DEC will conduct ongoing monitoring of the cap and all aspects of the cleanup remedy.
The cleanup of Onondaga Lake is creating opportunities for the public to reconnect with the lake. DEC is working to design and construct a public boat launch along the shoreline off Interstate 690 Exit 7 near the New York State Fairgrounds and Lakeview Amphitheater. The boat launch will provide access to motorboats, canoes and kayaks. Initial plans for the boat launch include a double launch for trailer boat launching, a car top boat/kayak launch, up to 30 parking spaces for cars with trailers, an additional 30 parking spaces for individual cars, as well as an accessible fishing platform or pier for deep water shoreline fishing.
Earlier this week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for public comment through June 2, 2017. Governor Cuomo is directing DEC to host three public information sessions in addition to the open house scheduled for April 27, to ensure the public has ample opportunity to provide feedback on this important proposal. To date, the public has made valuable contributions to the plan solicited through a variety of means. The draft plan can be found here.
Dredged sediments are permanently stored—fully encapsulated by a liner and soil cover—on the 55-acre sediment consolidation area on the Honeywell property in the town Camillus. Planting of an initial vegetative cover on the consolidation area is nearly complete, and native grasses and vegetation will be added in 2017.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Onondaga Lake and its shores are undergoing major revitalization, helping return the lake to its former glory. A former source of shame, the lake is coming back as a source of pride for the community. Water quality is improving, aquatic populations are rebounding, and people are experiencing the lake in ways that haven’t been possible in generations. In the past, Onondaga Lake was often called the most polluted lake in the nation, but today, it is the most resilient."
To date, the remedy has improved a total of 74 acres of wetlands, and Honeywell has planted 600,000 native plants, shrubs, and trees. Eighty seven acres of wetlands will be improved, and 1.1 million total plantings will be completed when the remedy is finished. Remaining habitat restoration activities in and along the lake, including re-establishing and improving aquatic vegetation in dredged and capped areas, are scheduled to be completed in 2017. This work will provide habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife in and around the lake and foster improved outdoor recreation such as fishing and bird watching. In addition, diluted calcium nitrate will continue to be added to the lake to decrease methyl mercury exposures from the water column and through the food chain which are expected to further lower mercury concentrations in fish.
As the remediation concludes in 2017 the project will shift into its monitoring phase. Honeywell, with DEC and federal oversight, will initiate the long-term Operation, Maintenance and Monitoring Program to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup remedy. Details about the program will be available to the public before it is finalized. In addition, DEC and Honeywell are continuing to work with Onondaga County to extend the Loop-the-Lake trail through Honeywell property along the southwestern portion of the lake.
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said, "This is a moment to celebrate Onondaga Lake and all of those committed to its restoration. Together, Governor Cuomo, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Honeywell and Onondaga County are helping restore Onondaga Lake and its shores for the benefit of generations to come."
DEC and EPA jointly issued the Record of Decision in 2005, calling for dredging more than two million cubic yards of contaminated sediments from Onondaga Lake, capping over 400 acres, and restoring ecological habitats both in the lake and along its shoreline. Honeywell agreed to design and implement the remedy pursuant to a federal consent decree executed in January 2007. The $451 million Superfund remediation project included five years of design and engineering, followed by construction and implementation that began in 2012. Honeywell International is conducting the project with oversight from DEC, EPA and the New York State Department of Health.
Long-term monitoring also includes five-year reviews of the entire lake bottom cleanup program. EPA conducts regular five-year reviews of the cleanup and the EPA’s 2015 review confirmed that remedial activities were operating as intended to protect public health and the environment. The next EPA five-year review is scheduled for 2020.
Accelerating Central NY Rising
This project complements “Central New York Rising,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested nearly $3 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down and businesses are choosing places like Syracuse, Oswego and Auburn as a destination in which to grow and invest.
Central NY Rising is moving forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will encourage private business to invest well over $2.5 billion—and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 5,900 new jobs. More information is available here
To be notified of this and other Onondaga Lake updates, subscribe to DEC’s Onondaga Lake News at www.dec.ny.gov/public/65855.html.
Public input on the boat launch can be emailed to Info.R7@dec.ny.gov.