NY to offer payments to secure more public access for fishing along nearby tributaries

Posted 4 December 2021 at 12:44 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

File photo by Tom Rivers: This angler tries to catch a big salmon in the Oak Orchard River.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a new pilot program to improve public access along Western New York’s Lake Ontario tributaries receiving water from the Erie Canal in Monroe, Orleans, and Niagara counties.

Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Canal Corporation, and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), have entered into a partnership to implement the “Access and Conservation Easement” program has been created to provide one-time payments to waterfront property owners to secure public fishing access and other conservation rights.

The eligible properties are along north flowing Lake Ontario tributaries which are currently and proposed to become part of the Reimagine the Canals Fall Fishing Program.

“Fishing during the fall season is a cornerstone of recreation in Western New York, and I am delighted to announce the expansion of our efforts to maintain optimal conditions and improve opportunities for anglers,” said Governor Kathy Hochul. “Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, this partnership between the state and local landowners in key fishing areas will connect community and conservation along the Lake Ontario tributaries and will provide New Yorkers with additional areas to cast a line while increasing tourism and bolstering local businesses.”

A Request for Expressions of Interest is being developed and will be issued to allow landowners in the designated areas to provide property and contact information to be considered for inclusion in the Program.

The ACE program will be piloted on several waterfront properties in Monroe, Orleans and Niagara counties selected through the RFEI and will follow a transparent process by which an easement price will be determined, with an option for landowners to opt-out at any point prior to reaching an agreement.

The easements will provide public fishing access and convey to the rights to maintain easement areas to improve water quality, enhance habitat, and reduce erosion. Easements or rights-of-way will reside with DEC ensuring public access and water quality improvements into the future.

NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “As part of our Reimagine the Canals Fall Fishing Program, we are proud to create the ACE program in partnership with our colleagues at DEC. Conservation efforts are crucial for our State’s environmental protection, and we look forward to the numerous benefits this program will provide communities and anglers who take advantage of New York’s world-class fishing destinations.”

This map from the State Canal Corp. shows where the state uses canal water to supplement local tributaries and boost fishing opportunities for the fall salmon runs.

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “For two seasons now the Canal Corporation has been increasing regulated water releases from the storied Erie Canal to improve spawning conditions and enhance angling opportunities in Western New York. These efforts are another example of how our Canal system connects our past with the present and the ACE program is a perfect complement to our Fall Fishing Program by providing anglers more and better access.”

DEC Commissioner Basil Segos said, “Developed with our partners at the New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation, the Reimagine the Canals Access and Conservation Easement program is a creative approach to enhancing public access to quality fishing experiences in Western New York, drawing anglers from across the state to experience the region’s world-class angling opportunities while protecting water quality and the environment at each site. DEC is pleased to collaborate on the Reimagine the Canals Fall Fishing initiative, which is bolstering fall fishing opportunities and local economies across Western New York.”

Based on an analysis of current and future public access needs, NYPA estimates investing up to $1.25 million over ten years into the ACE program. This program will expand New York’s Fall Fishing Program, which releases water, when appropriate, over an extended period to increase the flows in Lake Ontario tributaries throughout the fall and extends the draining of the Erie Canal to create optimal fishing opportunities and a longer season for anglers.

For more information on New York State’s Fall Fishing Program, visit the Canal Corporation’s website.