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NYSCTU In Action

Shining A Spotlight on the Owego Creek Conservation Project

The Five Year Owego Creek Strategic Plan

Over the next five years, the New York-based TU National staff, in close collaboration with the New York State Council and the Al Hazzard and Leon Chandler Chapters, will work hand in hand with our esteemed local partners. They will strive to gain a comprehensive understanding of the salmonid resources, habitat, fluvial dynamics, threats, and opportunities in the Owego Creek watershed. 

The first two years will be devoted mainly to conducting meticulous assessments.  These assessments will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive plan and timetable to reconnect, restore, and sustain the cold-water resources in the watershed.   This thorough approach will ensure the success of the project. The plan will then be executed over the final three years, with the engagement of contractors to handle the heavy equipment and others to perform the on-the-ground work.

  • The headwaters of Owego Creek are located in the hills of Tompkins County and Cortland County in the Southern Tier region of New York State. The creek originates from several small streams and tributaries and flows southward into Tioga County, joining the Susquehanna River near Owego.
  • The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture identified Owego Creek as the most extensive, most intact brook trout system in western New York. Trout Unlimited recognized it as a priority r due to its habitat's size, interconnectedness, and quality.  
  • Written as a joint effort by the Al Hazzard Chapter, the New York State Council, and TU Northeast Restoration Manager Tracy Brown, the Owego Creek Strategic Plan 2024-2029 has been developed, and work has begun.
  • The budget is $ 970,000 over five years.    Funding will come from contributions by the New York State Council, TU National grants such as Embrace-A-Stream, and various State, Federal, and Local organizations.
  • Although the system contains significant levels of high-quality habitat, the wild brook and brown trout populations have been severely impacted by recent floods and droughts.  The plan focuses on building resilience in the system and recovering the population to its former levels.  Key actions include:
    • Developing a complete habitat and thermal profile of the system will allow the completion of the 12 habitat improvement projects identified in the assessment phase.
    • Completing a field assessment for critical spawning, nursery, and thermal refuge areas.
    • Removing three road barriers and remediating one dam, all of which impede fish movement and migration.
    • Undertaking reconnection and restoration projects, including protection and management of nursery areas.
    • Conducting extensive public outreach to develop a catch and release ethic for brook trout.
  • Overall, the strategic plan aims to create a comprehensive approach to managing Owego Creek to benefit the environment, the local community, and the economy. Anticipated benefits and outcomes are:
    • Implementing Flood Mitigation Measures: Owego Creek is prone to flooding, which can cause significant damage to properties and infrastructure. 
    • Environmental Protection: Ensuring that the creek's environmental integrity is maintained and enhanced, protecting wildlife habitats and water quality because the creek and its surrounding areas are home to diverse ecosystems.
    • Community Development: Ensuring sustainable regional development, balancing growth with preserving natural resources.
    • Creating Recreational Opportunities: A well-maintained creek and surrounding areas can provide recreational opportunities for residents and visitors, such as fishing, boating, and hiking.
    • Creating Positive Economic Impact: By managing and enhancing the creek and its surroundings, you can contribute to the local economy through increased tourism and property values.O
  • Organizations, including the Al Hazzard and Leon Chandler chapters, NY Council, Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Native Fish Coalition, Upper Susquehanna Coalition, NYSDEC, and USFWS, will perform on-the-ground work.

Request a copy of the Strategic Plan and the Fact Sheet by contacting NY Council Region 7 Vice-President Allen Peterson