Essential project for healthy “green” and sustainable Onondaga Lake and its watershed; work critical to timely completion of lake restoration
The release of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed plan for a large part of Onondaga Lake’s northwest watershed is an important project milestone. The plan for Geddes Brook/Nine Mile Creek includes restoring wetlands, improving habitat, and providing opportunities for recreational use. These improvements are essential next steps in the restoration of Onondaga Lake.
The restoration of Geddes Brook/Nine Mile Creek has critical linkages with wetlands at the former LCP site, the Shrub Willow Farms at the former Solvay Settling Basins, and future enhanced habitat along the shores of the lake. Honeywell has already made great progress at some of these sites. At the LCP wetlands, 12,000 newly-planted trees and native plants are growing. And more than 100,000 shrub willows are growing on the Shrub Willow Farms, creating a potential source of green energy and bio-fuels for the region.
“We are very pleased that the need for improved wetlands and upland habitat for birds and other wildlife has been recognized and included in the remediation plan for Onondaga Lake and its tributaries,” said Frank Moses, Director of the Montezuma Audubon Center. “We look forward to working with DEC and Honeywell and contributing to connecting future habitat enhancement initiatives around the lake’s watershed.”
The DEC plan for Geddes Brook/Nine Mile Creek is based on contributions from national and local experts, including researchers and scientists from SUNY-ESF, as well as leading environmental consultants on stream restoration and habitat enhancement. This work is important as Onondaga Lake does not exist by itself. It is the centerpiece of an expansive watershed that includes creeks, rivers, wetlands, floodplains and wildlife that are interconnected with the lake. Achieving a restored Onondaga Lake requires a healthy and sustainable watershed.
“Working under the supervision of DEC, Honeywell’s team found innovative ways to create robust wetlands and habitats as part of this restoration of Geddes Brook and Nine Mile Creek,” said Honeywell Syracuse Program Director John McAuliffe. “Continued involvement of local residents, environmental groups, fishing and wildlife enthusiasts, as well as academic and civic organizations is critical for these waterways and the lake to achieve their full potential.”
Nine Mile Creek and Geddes Brook are two of Onondaga Lake’s primary tributaries. They flow north and east from Camillus and enter Onondaga Lake near the New York State Fairgrounds. Today, they are compromised by past industrial contamination and invasive plant species, among other things.
DEC’s plan, which was developed with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and in consultation with the Department of Health, calls for “bank to bank” removal of 132,000 cubic yards of soil (the equivalent of a soccer field 23 feet deep) and an estimated 1,500 pounds of contaminants. Approximately 100,000 cubic yards of certified clean soil will be used to replace the contaminated soil. Soil that is removed will be disposed of at the former LCP site containment system, which is being monitored. The LCP site is surrounded by an underground cut off wall that goes as deep as 70 feet.
Following removal of the contaminants, habitat and cover systems will be designed and installed to create enhanced ecological benefits, including sufficient water depth for fish and canoeing and new native vegetation to help reduce water temperature.
Re-alignment of Geddes Brook and Nine Mile Creek will improve the connectivity of the tributaries to a wider floodplain and create synergies between remediation and restoration. Wildlife corridors will be developed by providing shallower slopes from Geddes Brook and Ninemile Creek to the floodplains to adjacent upland areas. The project should take approximately two years to complete.
“The Geddes Brook and Nine Mile Creek banks and wetland areas are currently covered with habitat-degrading phragmites,” said Joseph McMullen, Principal Environmental Scientist with Terrestrial Environmental Specialists, Inc. a leader in the field of habitat restoration and a Honeywell consultant. “More than 20 acres of these plants will be removed and replaced with native emergent wetland species, such as: cattails, pond weed, bulrush, sedges, and water plantain, and woody species, such as: Red Maple, Sycamore, Green Ash, Pussy Willow, Gray Dogwood, Witch Hazel and Hawthorn.”
A new and improved Geddes Brook and Nine Mile Creek will support a diversity of habitats, including in-stream aquatic habitat. Emergent wetlands, forested floodplains, shrub-scrub and forested uplands will also be present at the restored site. The Nine Mile Creek and Geddes Brook area will be suitable for a variety of wading birds, warm and cold water fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Honeywell is committed to working under DEC’s supervision to involve the public in key design and construction activities. DEC’s Proposed Plan has been made available to the community for a public comment period that concludes on January 2, 2009. On December 10, 2008, DEC and EPA will hold a public meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the Martha Eddy Room in the Art and Home Center at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York.
A Proposed Plan is a document that identifies and evaluates different remedial actions for a specific project and recommends a plan that protects human health and the environment. More information on the Proposed Plan can be found in the Proposed Plan for Operable Unit 1 of the Geddes Brook/Nine Mile Creek Site Onondaga Lake Superfund Site DEC fact sheet.