Mayor Duffy and Commissioner Grannis at the ceremony at Hemlock lake in 2010.
Rochester Mayor Robert J. Duffy joined State Environmental Commissioner Pete Grannis, Rochester City Council Vice President Elaine Spaull, Canadice Supervisor Kristine Singer and Jim Howe of the Nature Conservancy today for a special celebration of the sale of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes.
The state completed the purchase of Hemlock and Canadice lakes from the City of Rochester for $13.7 million earlier this month. The transaction, which had been negotiated for more than two years, will preserve and protect the last two undeveloped Finger Lakes - which have supplied water to Rochester for more than 130 years.
Mayor Duffy and Commissioner Grannis outlined how Hemlock and Canadice lakes will remain forever wild for the enjoyment of visitors and residents, and presented a special joint proclamation in honor of the strong stewardship of the two lakes over the years and the continued preservation the sale will bring.
“I want to thank Gov. David Paterson and Commissioner Grannis for their foresight. This is a legacy for future generations of New Yorkers that will ensure that the pristine lakes and lands surrounding them remain undeveloped, protecting Rochester’s public water supply and guaranteeing that this jewel is preserved forever wild for the enjoyment of visitors and residents,” said Mayor Duffy. “I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work and cooperation in bringing this about. It will benefit citizens statewide and the taxpayers of the city of Rochester.”
“This is without a doubt the most important land acquisition project the state has undertaken outside of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks in more than a generation,” Commissioner Grannis said. “The watershed will be forever preserved, which will keep it in its natural, forested state, and provide a continuous source of clean drinking water and recreational opportunities for residents of Rochester and surrounding communities. It’s one of those win-win-win situations - this project enjoys widespread local support, provides economic assistance to one of the state’s major upstate cites, and ensures permanent protection for a spectacular open space.”
Of New York’s 11 Finger Lakes, Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake are the only two with undeveloped shorelines. Since 1876, Rochester has utilized the water from the lakes as its primary drinking water source. Prior to that, Rochester obtained its water from cisterns and wells.
In 1895, the City recognized the value of protecting the source of its public water supply, and thus began acquiring watershed property adjacent to the lakes. By 1950, the City owned 7,000 acres of critical shoreline property. Cottages and houses were removed. Agricultural land was replanted to forest.
City stewardship of the lakes and adjacent lands over the last century has provided a superior water supply while also protecting valuable regional resources, including open space, wildlife habitat and fisheries. As a direct result of City efforts, these are the only Finger Lakes with no shoreline development.
In addition to their importance as a source of drinking water, the lakes also are prime habitat for fish and wildlife. Two pairs of bald eagles now nest in the watershed, and in the 1970s - when the bald eagle was in serious trouble throughout the United States - the only nest in New York was at Hemlock Lake. The two lakes support a premier cold water trout fishery.
The lakes have been identified as a “high priority” on the state’s Open Space Conservation Program since its inception in 1992 - state acquisition would remove the pressure on the City to sell off the buffer lands for development. Under the terms of the transaction, the state purchased approximately 7,000 acres of land in the towns of Livonia, Conesus, Springwater, Richmond and Canadice. The City will retain the use of the lakes, which serve as much of its drinking-water supply.
Per agreement with the City, NYSDEC will continue property maintenance and preservation that meets or exceeds the City’s current standards, sealing the City’s legacy of good stewardship. Over the long term, a comprehensive unit management plan will be developed for the property, with extensive public input. That process will likely take two years or more to complete.
“It’s rare that we are able to simultaneously protect the environment, help keep the lid on property taxes and maintain an important resource for public use,” Assemblyman Joe Morelle said. “This sale accomplishes all of these goals, and I applaud Mayor Duffy, Commissioner Grannis and the Governor for their vision in reaching this agreement.”
Mayor Duffy also acknowledged the contributions of DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Stuart Gruskin, the Rochester City Council, Rochester Deputy Mayor Patricia K. Malgieri, Executive Director of the Central and Western New York Nature Conversancy Jim Howe and DEC Region 8 Director Paul D’Amato for all of their work in making today’s announcement possible. In addition, the Mayor thanked Canadice Town Supervisor Kris Singer, the Canadice Town Board, Ontario County Administrator Geoff Astles, Ontario County Deputy Administrator Darlys McDonough, Tom Harvey, Livingston County Administrator Ian Coyle, former Livingston County Administrator Nick Mazza, Town of Livonia Supervisor Eric Gott, Town of Conesus Supervisor Brenda Donohue, Town of Springwater Supervisor Norbert Buckley, Conservationist Steve Lewandowski, City of Rochester DES Commissioner Paul Holahan, City of Rochester Water Bureau Director Bob Morrison and City of Rochester Conservationist Don Root for their roles in making the sale possible.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has helped to facilitate the transaction, keeping officials from both the state and the City at the table through multiple administrations. Over the last few years, TNC also has acquired 1,100 acres of sensitive lands in the Hemlock-Canadice watershed.
“All of us at the Nature Conservancy applaud the State and the City of Rochester for permanently protecting these two Finger Lakes,” said Jim Howe, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Central & Western NY Chapter.
“This acquisition never would have happened without the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, and we need to recognize the importance of land and water protection for our drinking water, outdoor recreation and quality of life.”