A next step in Onondaga Lake restoration

Jul 21, 2014

As the removal and capping of industrial pollutants in Onondaga Lake continues, planning for the next phase of restoration is beginning.

Honeywell’s dredging of the lake shore and wetlands restoration is meant to remediate and prevent further damage from chemicals dumped in and near the water. Now environmentalists are eyeing how to make Onondaga Lake useable again. 

Honeywell dredging equipment on Onondaga Lake.
Honeywell dredging equipment on Onondaga Lake.
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A Natural Resource Damage Assessment by federal and state environmental agencies is in the early stages. It will identify how the contamination impacted use of the lake’s natural resources.

Ken Lynch, the regional director of New York environmental conservation, says this effort is about replacing what that pollution took away.

"What can we now build to replace what was lost in the past? So if people lost the opportunity to fish on the lake for 20 years because contamination, what can we do to bring back that lost opportunity?" he said.

That could mean building a boat launch or fishing pier.

"Projects do not have to be on property that was directly impacted or property owned by the responsible party," he said. "It can be anything that’s connected to the lost natural resources damaging. So in this case, anything within the watershed of Onondaga Lake."

Money would come from those responsible for the damage. It could be in the millions of dollars, but it could take time and legal battles to reach agreement.

The assessment is led by a group of trustees, which includes the Onondaga Nation.

"We want to restore the public resources," said Anne Secord, the New York state director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "We’re doing it on behalf of the public. That’s why we’re getting public input. We want to do what the public would like to have done, in terms of restoration."

They hope to have an outline ready late next year, as dredging work is being completed, after dredging and capping of contaminates on Onondaga Lake’s west shore is complete. Construction on projects could begin in about three years.