January 9, 2024
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Announces Actions to Plant 25 Million Trees, Safeguard Clean Water and Protect Our Lakes

Governor Hochul Announces Actions to Plant 25 Million Trees, Safeguard Clean Water and Protect Our Lakes

Sets New Goal to Plant 25 Million Trees by 2033

State of the State Proposal Commits to Clean Water Funding and Introduces Changes That Maximize Benefits to Rural and Disadvantaged Communities

Actions to Protect Our Lakes – Valuable Sources for Clean Drinking Water, Tourism, and Recreation

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced actions to plant 25 million trees, safeguard clean water and protect our lakes as part of the 2024 State of the State. Governor Hochul announced a funding commitment for clean water and a suite of changes to maximize benefits for rural and disadvantaged communities. In addition, Governor Hochul outlined actions to protect our lakes, which are valuable sources for clean drinking water, tourism, and recreation, and set a new goal to plant 25 million trees by 2033. Today’s announcement builds on the success of the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act and water funding programs focused on equity and environmental justice.

“New York’s natural resources are invaluable, and no one in New York should ever fear that they don’t have access to clean water,” Governor Hochul said. “New York’s natural beauty is unmatched, and we must take the necessary steps to keep it that way for generations to come.”

25 Million Trees By 2033

Achieving New York State's goals under the Climate Act will require unprecedented support for the environment, including the need to plant and maintain new forests. To make this a reality, Governor Hochul is announcing a goal of planting 25 million trees by 2033. This goal will invigorate our state’s tree planting efforts, send an unmistakable market signal to private nurseries, advance efforts to meet the Climate Act’s net-zero goal, and grow the states vital forest products industry.

Governor Hochul will also prioritize tree planting in urban areas to mitigate potential extreme heat, as cities warm faster than rural areas. These efforts will also engage youth across the state through education and planting programs to foster a conservation ethic, inspire the next generation of environmental stewards, and create deeper connections about the importance of trees for the environment, climate, and public health.

To put New York on a path to achieve these goals, the State will provide annual grants to municipalities over three years to plant trees to support resilient reforestation and urban forests.

Protecting Clean Water

Governor Hochul’s plan to safeguard clean water includes initiatives to protect water quality, root out emerging contaminants, protect against climate change, ensure affordability and prioritize disadvantaged communities.

Governor Hochul announced a funding commitment for clean water and is introducing new initiatives to assist municipalities in meeting their drinking water and clean water funding needs. These new programs, on top of current grants like the Water Infrastructure Improvement (WIIA) and Intermunicipal Grant (IMG) programs, will help communities meet challenges associated with emerging contaminants, harmful algal blooms (HABs), outdated sewer infrastructure, and lead service line removal while capitalizing on the economic returns from these vital investments.

Leveraging continued water infrastructure funding, the Environmental Protection Fund, federal funds, and the Environmental Bond Act, Governor Hochul will continue supporting essential water projects while making changes to improve funding delivery and provide the greatest benefit to communities.

Priorities include:

  • Supporting Rural Communities: Even with extensive financial support from the State, some municipalities are left with a large financial burden which are passed on to ratepayers. To alleviate this burden on small, rural, and disadvantaged communities, Governor Hochul is directing the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) to increase water infrastructure grants for small rural communities from 25% to 50% of net eligible project costs. This change will support smaller communities, like those in the Adirondacks, which often struggle with accessing clean water grants and delivering affordable projects.
  • Growing Community Resources to Ensure Equitable Access to Funding Opportunities: Small, rural, and disadvantaged communities are particularly impacted by deteriorating water infrastructure and emerging contaminants, and often do not possess the resources and capacity necessary to advance a project for infrastructure improvement. To provide essential support for updating New York’s critical water infrastructure, the state will continue to expand the efforts of the Community Assistance Teams program.
  • Protecting Drinking Water: Governor Hochul will also strengthen New York’s Source Water Protection efforts by directing the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health (DOH), and EFC to advance and accelerate community-led programs to eliminate pollution risks to municipal drinking water supplies. This includes free technical assistance to develop and implement community-specific drinking water source protection plans and initiating engineering planning grants for drinking water projects.
  • Tracking Down and Addressing Sources of PFAS Contamination: Building on New York’s national leadership on addressing the threat of emerging contaminants, DEC will continue to track down sources of PFAS from legacy industrial sites across the state to reduce exposure and releases into the environment. Governor Hochul will also expand funding opportunities for localities to help address PFAS and other emerging contaminants.
  • Introducing New Guidance to Reduce HABs: Governor Hochul has directed DEC to issue guidance values for phosphorus to drive comprehensive efforts to reduce the frequency of HABs that negatively impact drinking water quality and access to swimming and recreation in New York’s waters.

Protecting Our Lakes

The eastern Finger Lakes watershed and Chautauqua Lake are critical resources to New York State for dependable sources of clean drinking water, recreation, and tourism. Yet recently, New York has seen a greater frequency of reported HABs that compromise our access to clean water.

In response, Governor Hochul is directing key investments into the Eastern Finger Lakes Coalition of Soil and Water Conservation Districts to address the root causes of HABs and reduce their prevalence. Capital investments will build professional capacity, accelerate agricultural and resiliency projects, support farmers to invest in more cover crops, improve culverts to reduce runoff, and advance projects that improve soil health.

Governor Hochul is also focused on restoring recreational opportunities in Chautauqua Lake and will direct DEC to work with State, federal, and nonprofit partners to implement comprehensive pollution reduction strategies. This includes advanced water quality monitoring, completing a feasibility study to determine the extent and severity of internal phosphorus loading, and simultaneously beginning work on projects that can reduce nutrients entering the lake.

Erie Canal Bicentennial Commission

Governor Hochul will establish the Bicentennial Commission to recognize this historic waterway and commemorate the 200th anniversary of the completion of the original Erie Canal. The Commission will be responsible for a robust calendar of commemorative events culminating at the World Canals Conference in 2025. These events will highlight the vital role of the canal system as an example of New York’s spirit of ingenuity and its contemporary role as a driver of upstate economies and a public recreational asset.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474-8418
New York City: (212) 681-4640

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