Congressional District 25: James T. Walsh
“Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species – man – acquired significant
power to alter the nature of his world.”
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Biological Technical Assistance Group
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) New York Field Office (NYFO) provides a full-time
biologist to assist the EPA in their evaluation of the effects of Superfund sites and related remedial
activities on fish and wildlife. Because the NYFO contaminants specialists have unique expertise
pertaining to the effects of environmental contaminants on fish and wildlife, they provide technical
assistance that is invaluable in resolving complex environmental issues. In the 25th District this
assistance has been applied to Onondaga Lake, which is one of the State’s largest Superfund sites. The
NYFO’s biologist, in addition to reviewing documents pertaining to the site, serves on three working
groups which have representatives from Honeywell, New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation (NYSDEC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We are currently
developing restoration plans for the lake which are necessary to help refine remedial activities. There
are also approximately 40 other contaminated sites in the 25th Congressional District classified as
New York State Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites.
Federal Superfund Sites
Map Key: Proposed: 3 Final: 90 Deleted: 16
Onondaga Lake Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration
Onondaga Lake is a 3,000 acre waterbody located near Syracuse, New York. The lake has been the
recipient of over 100 years of Honeywell (formerly Allied Signal) related wastes, as well as industrial
and municipal sewage discharges from the municipal sewer system and by combined sewer overflows
(Metro facility). The lake is heavily contaminated with mercury (estimated release of 165,346 lbs) and
other compounds from industrial activities. Onondaga Lake was placed on the National Priorities List
(NPL) on December 16, 1994.
In September 2006, the USFWS completed a
Preassessment Screen (PAS) for the Onondaga
Lake Superfund Site, Onondaga County,
New York. Based on the information contained in
the PAS, Regional Director Marvin Moriarty, as
the Department of the Interior’s Authorized
Official, determined it is appropriate to conduct a
natural resource damage assessment for Onondaga
Lake. The USFWS is supportive of conducting a
damage assessment for Onondaga Lake. The
NYFO and is currently working with the
Onondaga Nation and New York State as
co-trustees to address natural resource injuries and
restoration of Onondaga Lake.
Dam Removal/Fish Passage
New York has 1.34 million anglers and an additional 1.55 million non-residents who come to New York
State to fish each year. Dams impact fish passage and degrade stream ecology, resulting in a decline in
fisheries. There are more than 6,000 dams in New York State. The NYFO is working with New York
Rivers United to evaluate dam removals in the Lake Ontario Watershed and the Susquehanna River
Basin. The USFWS has many programs to help communities fund a dam removal, such as the National
Fish Passage Program, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the National Fish Habitat Initiative, and
the Wildlife Restoration Act.
Great Lakes Grant Programs - Need for Proposals from New York
New Yorkers are greatly concerned with what happens in the Great Lakes, because all of the Great
Lakes waters drain into their state. There are more than 24 federal grant programs to fund habitat
restoration in the Great Lakes watershed available to individuals, communities, and non-profits in
New York. Every year the vast majority of these funds are awarded to conservation groups in Michigan,
with Wisconsin a close second. Why is so little money coming to New York? Many groups are not
aware of all the opportunities for funding projects. Many grant programs are not receiving proposals
from New York.
Great Lakes Water Levels
The International Joint Commission is reviewing criteria
for managing water levels on Lake Ontario and the
St. Lawrence River. Plan B+ is the best plan for the
environment, improves hydropower production, has no
impact on commercial navigation or water intakes, and is
favored by recreational boaters because it will generally
provide a longer boating season. There are some impacts
to riparian owners, primarily in the Montreal area. The
other two plans, A+ and D+, have virtually no
environmental benefits. Plan B+ extends the range of
water levels which has been compressed under the
regulatory scheme, resulting in severe impacts to wetlands
and degradation of habitats favored by fish such as northern Iroquois Dam– St. Lawrence River
pike and many bird species.
FERC Mitigation Funds Facilitate Collaborative Conservation
A $24 million Fish Enhancement, Mitigation and Research Fund (FEMRF) was established in 2003 by a
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Relicensing Settlement Agreement for the
St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project to benefit aquatic resources in the Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River
Basin. The Agreement also established the FEMRF Fisheries Advisory Committee (FAC), a
collaborative conservation group comprised of federal, state and Canadian resource agencies, the
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, the New York Power Authority, St. Lawrence County, and New York Rivers
United. The FAC first convened in August 2005.
During the past 18 months, the collaboration developed a conservation strategy to benefit the recovery
of the native fish species historically found in the St. Lawrence River. These species were impacted by
the power project and are also targeted for recovery in 18 comprehensive plans developed by
international conservation groups on both sides of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. As a result
of leveraging both prior planning efforts and $300,000 of the FEMRF, $1 million in conservation
actions were implemented in 2006. The FAC is seeking proposals from restoration ecologists, the
academic community, tribes, non-profits, and other interested parties in the Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence
River Basin. The USFWS anticipates that $500k - $1 million of the FEMRF will be awarded to
collaborative conservation groups in FY2007.
See http://www.fws.gov/northeast/nyfo/fwc/femrf.htm for more information.
Fish ladder to pass northern pike and muskellunge to spawning and rearing habitats. Delaney Bay, St. Lawrence River,
Grindstone Island, New York. Ducks Unlimited, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and SUNY-ESF.
American Eel Status Review
The USFWS recently completed a status review of the American eel to
determine if the species qualified for listing as threatened or endangered.
The eel population index, as measured at the Saunders eel ladder on the
St. Lawrence River, showed a decline from over a million eels migrating
upriver per year in the 1980s to only a few thousand per year now. The
American eel is panmictic, which means there is one population that spawns together in the Sargasso
Sea, south of Bermuda. The young eel then disperse throughout the Atlantic coast and migrate up rivers
into fresh water, where they mature for many years before migrating back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn
and die. The population in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River (LOSLR) basin is exclusively large
females, making it potentially a key component of the breeding population.
Due to the relatively stable recruitment in some portions
of the range, the millions of eel still known to exist, the
wide diversity of habitats the species can occupy, and
the many unknowns (such as what portion of the
population never leaves saltwater), the USFWS was
unable to list the species as endangered or threatened.
However, the USFWS expressed concern over the
serious declines in portions of the range, particularly the
The NYFO is actively working with our
Canadian counterparts to conduct research on
measures to protect downstream migrating eel
and to determine whether stocking can help
restore the eel to this portion of their range.
Some of the FEMRF money will be devoted
to this endeavor. We are also working closely
with hydro developers to install eel ladders at
hydro projects on tributaries in the LOSLR
basin. A total of 15 eel ladders have been
installed or are currently being designed and
will be placed on the Oswego and Raquette
Rivers, as well as on the Hoosic River, a
tributary to the Hudson River.
There are several Federally-listed species within your district including the American hart’s-tongue fern
(threatened), bald eagle (threatened), bog turtle (threatened), and Indiana bat (endangered). There is also
a Federal candidate for listing, the Eastern massasauga.
Indiana bats are found over most of the eastern half of the United
States. As of the last winter count there are approximately
460,000 Indiana bats rangewide. New York provides a home to
approximately 42,000 of these. While the Indiana bat was one of
the first species listed under the ESA, we have a great deal more to
learn about its biology, status, and threats to its survival. The
USFWS is part of a large-scale effort led by the NYSDEC, in
coordination with other agencies including the New York Natural
Heritage Program, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Department of
Defense to investigate Indiana bat movements and habitat use
within New York. Indiana bats are captured as they emerge from
their hibernacula in the spring and marked with radio transmitters.
Indiana bat Biologists then follow the bats to determine how far they move
from the hibernacula and what types of habitat they are using.
Hibernacula in Albany and Ulster Counties will be the focus of a
proposed emergence study in 2007.
Great Lakes Navigation
The U.S. and Canada are conducting a joint study
to determine how to maintain the Great Lakes
St. Lawrence Seaway (GLSLS) System for the
next 50 years. The NYFO has worked closely
with our Michigan office, the Army Corps of
Engineers, Transport Canada, and Environment
Canada to determine what measures will be
undertaken to ensure system reliability, what the
environmental impacts of these actions will be,
and what mitigation may be required. The final
report is due out later this year. Invasive species is the biggest concern, with erosion from ship wakes
also of significance. Since the proposal does not include season extension, new locks, or larger ships,
many of the most serious environmental impacts have been eliminated from concern.