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EPA awards $260,000 to boost restoration efforts at Onondaga Lake

August 13, 2013
KEYWORDS EPA / water quality
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New York lake

The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) and the Onondaga Environmental Institute have received a combined $260,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finance activities that will enhance water quality in Onondaga Lake and the Onondaga Lake watershed in central New York.

The bulk of the EPA grant ($200,000) has been awarded to the NEIWPCC, which has used the money to pay for a two-year contract with an Onondaga Lake Watershed Coordinator. The remaining $60,000 will be used by the Onondaga Environmental Institute for training purposes in Syracuse. Training programs will cover the development, installation and maintenance of stormwater controls through the use of green infrastructure. The EPA pointed out that using green infrastructure to manage water is an approach designed to protect, restore or mimic natural water cycles and lead to better quality of life for communities.

Aimee Clinkhammer, the Onondaga Lake Watershed Coordinator employed by the NEIWPCC, will collaborate with community groups, enterprises, local governments and the Onondaga Nation. Their joint efforts will focus on developing strategies to restore the physical, chemical and biological health of the Onondaga Lake Watershed. Clinkhammer will also seek to promote awareness, with outreach efforts focusing on explanation and promotion of restoration, as well as of access to Onondaga Lake and natural areas located in the watershed. The coordinator will also be responsible for providing support to local governments in project impact assessment, land use planning and various local decisions with a bearing on Onondaga Lake integrity.

Part of the money received by the Onondaga Environmental Institute will finance two training workshops on green infrastructure. They will be held at the L&M Training Center in Syracuse and will be open to low-income and unemployed adults. The workshops will teach participants how to build and maintain green infrastructure. In addition to learning about rain gardens, bioretention basins, rain barrels and green roofs, the participants will also be instructed in life skills, job readiness and workplace safety while being acquainted with a wide range of "green" careers. These topics will also be covered in two-month afterschool programs targeting people aged between 15 and 25. This grant comes from the National Urban Waters program, which was established by the EPA to support efforts by local communities to access and improve their urban waters and benefit from the surrounding land.

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Judith Enck, regional administrator at the EPA, said that the health of the Onondaga Lake was improving every year thanks to the outstanding work done by citizens, community leaders and government agencies. Their efforts will receive a fresh boost from the EPA grants, helping to make the lake and watershed cleaner for future generations, Enck added.

Edward Michalenko, president of the Onondaga Environmental Institute, thanked the EPA on behalf of his organization, adding that the institute was looking forward to utilizing the grant and collaborating with its partners. Ron Poltak, executive director of the NEIWPCC, added that the dedication and commitment of the people involved in the Onondaga Lake initiative had delivered great results so far and the partners intended to build on that momentum to advance restoration efforts further.

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