Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2) - February Newsletter

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Drinking Water Source Protection Program - February Newsletter

This issue's topics:

  • Taking Action Through WQIP
    • What is WQIP?
    • Finger Lakes Land Trust
    • Q&A with Lenore Boris, Landowner and WQIP Partner
    • How can I get involved?
  • Technical Assistance Providers Available to Protect Your Drinking Water!
    • What can I expect?

Taking Action through WQIP

Congratulations, you’ve developed a Drinking Water Source Protection Plan (DWSP2) plan and now it’s time to take action to implement your strategies to protect your source water now and into the future. One of the strategies identified in your plan is land acquisition through purchase or easement. This is an outcome of the work your community did in the early phases of the Framework (Prepare a Drinking Water Source Protection Map and Create a Potential Contaminant Source Inventory). Maybe your stakeholders noticed your municipality did not own or control important parts of your source’s critical area. Maybe you do own most of the important areas except for one significant parcel. There are any number of reasons why a municipality may include this strategy but the important message is, a funding program has been specifically created to help your municipality meet their land acquisition goals for source water protection.

Below is a quick introduction to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) program, Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) Program - Land Acquisition Projects for Source Water Protection as well as a real-life example of where this program and strategy are successfully utilized. We were also privileged to meet with the landowner who provides her unique prospective on how she worked with a local land trust to protect their community’s public drinking water supply.

What is WQIP?

WQIP is a competitive, statewide grant program open to local government, soil and water conservation districts and not-for-profit corporations to implement projects that directly address water quality impairments, improve aquatic habitat, or protect a drinking water source.

This program provides funding for various project types, including Land Acquisition Projects for Source Water Protection. This project type protects sources of public drinking water by providing funds to purchase parcels and/or conservation easements for land that is near an active public drinking water supply. Not only is this a great implementation strategy to protect your public drinking water source, but there are funds available to cover a majority of the cost!

DEC has worked with over 25 municipalities and land trusts across the state to protect a number of public drinking water sources. Let’s take a closer look at one organization and the landowner they worked with to protect the drinking water supply for the City of Ithaca.

Finger Lakes Land Trust

Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) works to protect the forests, gorges, shorelines, and unique character of New York’s Finger Lakes. As part of its mission, FLLT protects water quality by permanently conserving the surrounding valleys and working with partners to restore natural systems that safeguard watersheds in the region. FLLT has received WQIP Land Acquisition grant funding for several land acquisition projects to protect public drinking water sources within their region. One such project was to protect the drinking water supply of the City of Ithaca by partnering with local landowners. We had the opportunity to sit down with one of the landowners and learn more about them, their land, and reasons for partnering with FLLT and WQIP.

Q&A with Lenore Boris, Landowner and WQIP Partner

One of the first projects FLLT completed was on property owned by Lenore Boris. The property, referred to here as the Boris property, is a 13-acre property a few miles outside of the City of Ithaca.

So how did Lenore come to work with FLLT to protect her beautiful property as well as the City of Ithaca’s drinking water source? Her daughter! Her daughter had seen a flyer for a community presentation about conservation easements hosted by FLLT and informed Lenore about it. At first, Lenore thought her land was not large enough and would not be eligible or helpful to the source water protection effort. But Lenore decided to attend anyway and approached someone from the program to let them know she may have a parcel that could help with their mission.

After FLLT was successful in receiving WQIP Land Acquisition Projects for Source Water Protection funding, Lenore worked with them to place a conservation easement on the back 10 acres of the property so the 3 acres closest to the road would remain buildable for Lenore or the next landowner.

We asked Lenore a few more questions about the property and her reason for working with FLLT. Let’s see what she had to say:

Q: State Source Water Team: Could you provide us with an overview of your property?

A: Lenore: Six Mile Creek cuts across my property, but meanders across it, so there is far more creek frontage than you would have predicted. A geologist from Finger Lakes Land Trust went and looked at the property and identified several unique geographic formations on the land that he indicated were worth protecting in addition to the Six Mile Creek watershed. So, we proceeded with plans to place a conservation easement on about 10 of the 13 acres.

A view of Six Mile Creek from the Boris Property

A view of Six Mile Creek from the Boris property.

Q: State Source Water Team: Had you ever thought of protecting your land for source water before?

A: Lenore: I did not really know about these conservation efforts. So, hearing about WQIP and, specifically, that I had property of special interest because it is in the Six Mile Creek watershed increased my interest in conserving my land. It combined my interest of protecting the land and also giving back to the community in some way. At a very local level, I am giving back to Ithaca by protecting the watershed and on a bigger level, I am able to do my part for climate change. Preserving a wooded area and the land formations that are in that area is one small piece that I can do to make sure that we are not tearing down trees that are so valuable for cleaning the air and providing homes for different birds, insects, and animals.

Q: Source Water Team: What was the most exciting part of working on this project?

A: Lenore: The 10 acres would be protected for all eternity, and yet, if someone wanted to build a house, they could build a house on the top 3 acres and enjoy the part that has a conservation easement. They would not be able to disrupt the protection of that land that the conservation easement provides. That is exciting to know because that was always my intent when I bought the land, nothing would be built on the part that sloped down and across Six Mile Creek.

Q: Source Water Team: Anything new you learned about your land while engaging in this project?

A: Lenore: I did not know or realize just how important Six Mile Creek is! I also am not a geologist, so having a geologist talk about the different characteristics of the land and hear their considerations for how to protect the land was quite interesting and something I did not know anything about.

Riparian Buffer Plantings adjacent to Six Mile Creek on the Boris property.

Riparian buffer plantings adjacent to Six Mile Creek on the Boris Property.

Q: State Source Water Team: How was your experience working with Finger Lakes Land Trust?

A: Lenore: The Finger Lakes Land Trust was very thorough. I could tell from the discussions and types of things they looked at that they really had a major interest in not only protecting the land but protecting the land correctly. That was very gratifying to know, that they were so committed to the work of conserving property.

Q: State Source Water Team: What advice would you give to others?

A: Lenore: I would say it is doing a great service to our community and to people who want to protect our natural surroundings. If that is a primary goal of yours, this is one way you can participate.

Q: State Source Water Team: Anything we did not ask that you would like to include?

A: Lenore: I was thrilled that my interest in protecting the land coincided with Finger Lake’s and DEC’s interest in protecting the watershed. We both had objectives that could be met by putting a conservation easement on that property.

Lenore certainly has a passion for protecting land and the environment and it was great to hear how partnering with Finger Lakes Land Trust and WQIP were able to make her goal a reality. You may have the same passion and goal as Lenore and wondering what you can do. Let’s find out!

How can I get involved?

Are you interested in protecting your drinking water source and have a parcel of land that may be suitable? Good news! Your municipality or local land trust may be looking for interested landowners such as yourself to work with. Contact your local municipality, land trust, or the DEC to see how you can aid with source water protection efforts.

Coming up soon, we will hear about another FLLT project that is further protecting the City of Ithaca’s drinking water source. Stay tuned!

Technical Assistance Providers Available to Protect Your Drinking Water!

Have you heard the good news? The State is offering a free technical assistance provider (TA provider) to communities interested in developing and implementing a Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2) Plan for their source(s) of drinking water. 
If you and your community are interested in working with a TA provider, apply today or visit the DWSP2 webpage for more details. The application should take only 20-30 minutes to fill out. Once completed, submit the application by using the submit button at the bottom of the PDF. Any questions can be directed to the DWSP2 Team at source.water@dec.ny.gov.

What can I expect?

TA providers work with each community every step of the way, using the DWSP2 Framework, to develop a DWSP2 Plan specific to their community and drinking water source. TA providers will:
  • Help establish stakeholder workgroups. 
  • Assist with coordination of stakeholder workgroup meetings.
  • Gather water quality and/or water quantity data and assist with interpretation.
  • Gather information on potential contaminant sources.
  • Help identify and/or delineate source water protection areas.
  • Help prepare or update source water assessment maps.
  • Offer assistance creating protection areas for groundwater systems using advanced numerical modeling.
  • Aid with identifying implementation strategies to address current and future potential contaminant sources and land uses.
  • Assist in source water protection project implementation.
  • Offer guidance on funding sources to fund such projects.
  • Provide guidance on writing and maintaining a local drinking water source protection plan.

Fill out an application today! 

Share Your Thoughts

Have you begun the DWSP2 process? Or do you have a program or are you aware of a program relevant to source water? Send in any helpful hints or information at source.water@dec.ny.gov and we may highlight them!

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