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Nine element plan topic of public outreach session

FINGER LAKES--In an effort to better inform the public about the Seneca-Keuka Watershed Nine Element Plan, the planning group held a Zoom meeting Thursday, Oct. 7 to detail what they are doing and why. The purpose of a Nine Element Plan is to engage key stakeholders within a watershed to engage in planning on how to identify restoration and protection strategies to address the water quality issues and concerns. One of the goals is to address non-point source pollution or runoff that can cause adverse conditions in the lake.
"This project has been funded primarily through the New York department of state, but also a lot of local contributors - without them this wouldn't have been possible, including the Keuka Lake Association, Ontario County, Steuben County, Yates County, Schuyler County (and more)," said Ian Smith, Seneca Watershed Steward for the Seneca Watershed Intermunicipal Organization.
According to the DEC website, 9E plans have been identified as an effective solution for environmental restoration and protection and are likewise given a higher priority for grant applications submitted to DEC's Water Quality Improvement Project.
"Nine Element Plans are part of the New York state approach to what they call clean water planning," said Liz Moran, president of EcoLogic LLC. "So this is a way to direct communities to go through that process of how to envision their future, figuring out what to do and then who will do what and when and how much will it cost."
Key to the plan is identifying best management processes along with schedules and financial needs.
"Importantly, how do we measure progress? We want the Nine Element Plan to be a document that will guide multiple organizations into the future," said Moran. "How do we coordinate measuring progress?"
When analyzing that progress, Moran said it is important to incorporate as much data as possible from as many information sources as possible, including agriculture.
"We hope to capture a lot of that information to create a framework to build on," said Moran.
Part of the importance of the 9E plan is the overwhelming change the Finger Lakes have seen over the last 15 years or so in terms of growth combined with the fact many municipalities need more long-term planning.
"Right now, about 23 percent of municipalities have a comprehensive plan adopted in the last decade... and that is really not a good sign because a comprehensive plan should be updated every 10-15 years, so we are lagging," said George Frantz, associate professor at Cornell University. "And a lot has happened in the last 15 years or so."
Development of the plan is expected to take years, but once implemented its effects will be felt for decades.
"It is critical to remember that implementation of nearly all practices is voluntary and for this reason, it is important that we get feedback from all watershed stakeholders to help identify the most realistic and achievable path forward," said Smith in a statement.
"We are on track to finish ahead of schedule," Smith added.
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