The Cayuga Lake Defense Fund - NYSDEC Priority Waterbodies Listing for Cayuga Lake

Taken from the NYSDEC Priority Waterbodies List

Cayuga Lake

Description: Southern End of Cayuga Lake Resolution Potential: Medium
Segment identification number: 0705-0040 Segment size: 5,000 acres

Problem Information (*indicates the PRIMARY Use Impairment/Pollutant/Source)
Use Impairment(s) Severity Documentation
Water Supply* Threatened Some
Bathing Stressed Good
Fish Propagation Stressed Some
Aesthetics Stressed Some
Type of Pollutant(s)
Silt (Sediment)*, Nutrients
Source(s) of Pollutant(s)
Streambank Erosion*, Agriculture, Construction, Urban Runoff, Roadbank Erosion
Issue Needs Study and Management Plan

Further Details

Use Impairment - High levels of turbidity cause bathing to be stressed. Water supply use is threatened by the turbidity.

After heavy rainfall events, the south end of Cayuga Lake is brown with suspended sediment that is transported from the surrounding watershed by several major tributaries. These tribs include Salmon Creek, Fall Creek, Cascadilla Creek, Six-mile Creek, and Cayuga Inlet.

The high levels of turbidity stress the bathing use; the beach at Stewart Park has been closed for 20 years because turbidity was too high for safe swimming. After heavy rainfall, the low transparency of the water causes unsafe conditions at other beaches. The warm water fishery is stressed because the water is too turbid to support rooted aquatics which provide habitat for the fish. Ithaca takes its water from the lake near Bolton Point (south of Salmon Creek mouth) which doesn't appear to be presently affected by the silt problem. However, water supply is threatened if the turbidity problem gets worse. Most of the problems are at the extreme southern end, though Salmon Creek is a significant source of sediments and nutrients where it enters the lake.

The non-point sources in the watershed are many. Salmon Creek is most affected by agriculture; it is a prime area for dairy production in both Cayuga and Tompkins County. There are many big farms, considerable cash cropping and animal waste; there are some poultry farms as well. Cayuga Inlet, Cascadilla Creek and Six-Mile Creek suffer primarily from streambank and roadbank erosion, erosion from construction and land development, and urban runoff, with some cropland erosion. Fall Creek has sources of erosion in its watershed including streambank, roadbank, development and agricultural areas.

Prepared by the Cayuga Lake Defense Fund (CLDF).
For more information, Call: 275-9054 or 272-7914 or email

CLDF 1998