For decades, Scajaquada Creek has been treated like dirt. It’s been kicked and punched, and spat upon. It’s been polluted, narrowed, and covered up with asphalt. Unfortunately, much of what has happened over the years is irreversible, unless East Side roadways are removed. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be fixing what we can. At least this is the sentiment of New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan and State Senator Pete Harckham, who have announced their sponsorship of vital and unprecedented protection efforts that now include Class C streams in NYS.
A recent DEC Angler Survey showed that New York State freshwater sport fisheries generate more than $2 billion a year and support nearly 11,000 jobs statewide.
Scajaquada Creek is categorized as a Class C stream. Until now, there have been very little protections in place for these types of streams and creeks – they are not high profile waterways, so they have been brushed aside, deemed worthless… where in fact the exact opposite is true.
This new protection bill (S.5612-A / A.8349) applies to class C streams and waterways in New York State. The action will ultimately ensure that there is access to fresh drinking water, fishing, and recreation. These waterways are now being included in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Protection of Waters Regulatory Program.
More than 11.2 million New Yorkers are dependent on public water systems that rely on small streams to supply clean drinking water.
“Here in New York we’ve made great progress in protecting our waterways under the Clean Water Act, and this bill will allow us to continue that work,” said Ryan. “Now more than ever it’s vitally important we take the steps necessary to protect our environment. I’m proud to stand with all of the hard-working groups who have helped us make this bill a reality and thank them for their tireless advocacy for our environment.”
With Global Warming on everyone’s minds, and even the pandemic possibly linked to the earth’s environmental corruption, it’s more important than ever to protect our natural resources, which have been squandered for decades.
“As responsible stewards of our environment, we must always look for opportunities to increase our efforts to safeguard the streams and watersheds around us, and that’s what this legislation does,” said Harckham. “It also maintains the quality of our drinking water around the state while still allowing residents to enjoy fishing, boating and non-contact activities on certain waterways.”
If/when blessed by Cuomo, Class C streams will join Class AA and A streams (drinking water sources), Class B streams (swimming and contact recreation), and Class T and TS streams (supporting trout populations and trout spawning) that are currently safeguarded by the DEC in NYS, despite the Trump administration pushing the federal government to roll back clean water protections as of 2019.
“The New York State Senate and Assembly have taken a historic step to push back on the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act rollbacks. If signed into law by Governor Cuomo, 41,000 miles of streams in New York at risk from Trump’s Dirty Water Rule now stand to gain additional state protections,” said Jeremy Cherson, legislative advocacy manager for Riverkeeper. “The unscientific federal rule challenged in court by Attorney General James and a coalition of states went into effect on June 22nd and limits federal jurisdiction for seasonal and rain-fed streams that are often the sources for drinking water across the state. The legislation passed by Senator Harckham and Assemblymember Ryan will ensure New York State limits the damage to New York’s clean drinking water and wildlife through new state oversight.”
The newly passed bill, when signed into law, will extend DEC protections to over 40,000 miles of Class C streams across New York, including Tonawanda Creek and Cayuga Creek in Western New York.
“At a time when we are fighting relentless federal environmental rollbacks across the nation, New York State continues to demonstrate national leadership with historic legislation recently passed by the Assembly and Senate, and that is good news for our state’s vulnerable waterways,” said Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. “A huge thank you to Assemblyman Sean Ryan who sponsored the bill and Assemblymembers Burke and Wallace who co-sponsored, and our team was proud to join dozens of advocates in Albany to push for this legislation. If signed into law by Governor Cuomo, many of our Great Lakes tributaries and at-risk Class C streams like Scajaquada Creek will now benefit from greater protections, which demonstrates the importance of maintaining citizen voices and advocacy to defend our fresh water.”