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Lake Ontario Coastal Initiative

Summary of the LOCI grant proposal to the EPA 

New York's Lake Ontario coastal waters are utilized for tourism, sport fishing, swimming, other water based recreation, drinking water, and industrial processing. This valuable resource is viewed as a key asset in the economic revitalization of upstate New York. Despite significant water quality improvement in the open waters of Lake Ontario over the last decade, the 300 miles of New York's Lake Ontario coastal waters and embayments, including bays, river and creek mouths and their associated wetlands, are suffering from many impairments that severely limit their recreational use and ultimately affect the economic development of the region. Remediation efforts are fragmented, with projects, communities and counties competing for the attention of state and federal agencies and limited available funds.

In May of 2002 the Center for Environmental Information (CEI) sponsored the New York's North Coast: A Troubled Coastline Conference with guidance from a steering committee made up of a variety of interests and agencies from around the region. The 176 participants heard from politicians, scientists, agencies, and practitioners about the current state of Lake Ontario, what has been and what still needs to be accomplished for restoration and remediation of the coastal ecosystem, and options for ways to facilitate this process. The participants also were able to voice their concerns about invasive species, habitat destruction, algae blooms, turbidity, and declining quality of recreational opportunities.

As follow up to the conference dialogue, CEI applied for and received a one year EPA Region 2 Wetlands Program Development Grant (WPDG) in October 2002.

Goals of the Initiative

· To create a community-based regional approach for protection and improvement of water quality in Lake Ontario's coastal zones and embayments.
· To build the capacity of New York's Lake Ontario coastal communities, agencies and citizens to work cost-effectively with state and federal government agencies and each other.
· To identify and help secure resources needed to insure environmental and economic health of Lake Ontario's coastal communities.

What CEI is Doing

1) CEI will facilitate creation of a regional action forum (the Network) which can develop into a self-sustaining group to develop and implement a comprehensive coastal ecosystem protection and restoration program. Beginning with the 176 participants in the May 2002 conference, CEI will identify individuals and leadership within the seven shoreline counties, working in collaboration with local agencies and groups and in partnerships with the Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance and others. The project Steering Committee will provide interim leadership and management of the Network, and will identify specific tasks and opportunities to implement the protection and restoration program.

2) CEI will build upon existing communication "networks" and develop a database for communication among the Network members, electronic newsletter, and electronic files and website links for existing information on wetlands mapping and monitoring; federal and state laws applicable to pollution problems; funding sources; local ordinances, zoning and land use planning; land protection organizations and tax incentives and other tools to protect sensitive/vulnerable lands; existing priorities of federal, state and local agencies; and past and current research references.

3) CEI will help mobilize local leadership to organize community based workshops that: give stakeholders opportunity to express their concerns and information needs, while learning from knowledgeable speakers about the issues; provide for interaction with stakeholders in other counties in order to benefit from their experiences; allow CEI to identify itself as a resource for information; and encourage public participation and input for a second Lake Ontario Coastal conference that would integrate recommendations, ideas, and action plans proposed at the county and community level.

CEI has been guided in this process with the aid of a steering committee made up of representatives from a variety of interest and backgrounds.

CEI, 55 St. Paul Street, Rochester, NY 14604
(585) 262-2870 email ceiroch@frontiernet.net

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Last revised 10/2/2003.

Center for Environmental Information, Inc