News > News > Preserve River Ecology > 41 community and environmental organizations press Gov. Cuomo to sign legislation to protect NY’s streams

41 community and environmental organizations press Gov. Cuomo to sign legislation to protect NY’s streams

Legislation to Protect StreamsEnvironmental and community organizations have sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to sign legislation that would extend environmental protections for 41,000 miles of streams across New York State. The letter highlights the urgent need for the legislation to become law in response to the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Clean Water Act’s Clean Water Rule. The rule change targets headwater streams and wetlands creating a potential gap in protections for tens of thousands of stream miles in New York.

The bill, if signed, will extend the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Protection of Waters Program to class C streams intended to provide oversight to projects which may disturb stream banks or beds. Class AA, A, B and C trout streams already require permits for covered activities. Forty-one organizations signed the letter in support of the legislation noting the importance of many of the class C streams to public water supplies, wildlife habitat and recreation.

“Protecting our vulnerable small streams is an investment in drinking water source protection and the future of clean water. Restoring streams after they are degraded is far more costly than protecting them today through this critical legislation,” said Riverkeeper’s legislative advocacy manager Jeremy Cherson. “We know that streams that should have higher classifications and should be protected under DEC oversight have fallen through the cracks in places like Newburgh and Peekskill. Signing this legislation will ensure our freshwater streams are protected no matter who is in charge of the federal government.”

“New York’s birds can’t tell the difference between a Class A and Class C stream. When tens of thousands of miles of the water they depend on is at-risk, so is their ability to access essential food sources, breeding habitat, and places to rest and refuel during migration,” said Erin McGrath, Policy Manager for Audubon New York. “Many of these Class C streams also provide ecosystem services, including clean drinking water and resilience to flood damage. Protecting small streams has a big impact, and we urge Governor Cuomo to sign this important legislation.”

“New York’s class C streams do not receive the same permitting, buffer or stream bank protections afforded higher graded streams, even though they may provide similar ecological services,”  said Roger Downs, Conservation Director, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “More than 41 thousand miles of these class C streams transect New York State and serve as a support network for groundwater recharge, flood control, recreational fishing and boating, and critical habitat. The Trump Administration’s roll back of federal protections for these irreplaceable waterways will take years to fully restore.  It’s time for New York to assume responsibility for the protection of all our natural clean water infrastructure so we may never face this crisis again.”

Patrick McClellan, Policy Director of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “Our waterways are one of our most vital resources. As the current White House continues its assault on clean water, by rolling back the Clean Water Act’s Clean Water Rule, New York’s State Legislature led the way on environmental protection by passing S5612A/A8349. Strengthening protections for small streams will improve our waterways. We urge Governor Cuomo to sign the legislation.”

“People throughout the state and in the Hudson Valley live, work and play near water. Yet, not all streams and waterways receive the protections they deserve under the law, despite the benefits they provide,” said Andy Bicking, Director of Public Policy for Scenic Hudson. “If enacted, this bill would take a meaningful step toward recognizing that our waterways are the sources of our health and prosperity and safeguarding them for future generations.

“Streams serve as critical arteries throughout the state, providing New Yorkers with safe drinking water and ensuring robust downstream – and urban – communities. The federal government has gutted protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act,” said Maureen Cunningham, Senior Director for Clean Water, Environmental Advocates. “We therefore remain grateful to the NYS Legislature for providing a strong response to these rollbacks by expanding statewide stream protections, in legislation (A.8349/S.5612-A) passed earlier this year. We call on Governor Cuomo to sign this important bill into law to ensure that New York is protecting our streams and our clean water for the long haul.”

“While New York’s class C streams may be small, the benefits they provide for drinking water, flood protection, and aquatic habitat are huge,” said Brian Smith, Associate Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “After years of assaults on clean water from the current federal administration, it is critical that New York step up and provide additional protections for these important and vulnerable waters.  We urge Governor Cuomo to sign this important clean water bill into law.”

The legislation, S5612A/A8349 is sponsored by Senator Pete Harckham and Assemblyman Sean Ryan. The legislation passed the state senate in both the 2019 and 2020 session, while passing in the Assembly in 2020.

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