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Executive Summary

Nine Mile Creek, also known as Ninemile Creek, is a stream in Onondaga County, New York. It lies in the Seneca River watershed and is a major tributary of Onondaga Lake. The source of Nine Mile Creek is Otisco Lake in the town of Marcellus, from which the stream runs northward for 25 miles (40 km) through the villages of Marcellus and Camillus to Onondaga Lake in the town of Geddes (Wikipedia, accessed on April 2, 2013). The stream corridor is scenic and prized for trout fishing. The watershed is predominantly rural, especially in its southern half, but transitions to suburban and urban/former industrial in the northern half.

The Nine Mile Creek watershed covers 115 square miles (300 km2) and includes portions of ten towns in Onondaga County and two towns in Cortland County. This report focuses on the portion of the watershed between Otisco Lake and Onondaga Lake, or approximately 72 square miles (186 km2). The Otisco Lake portion of the watershed has its own management plan, developed by the Onondaga County Water Authority (OCWA) to satisfy requirements of the county’s drinking water supply permit.

The Towns of Marcellus and Camillus form the majority of the land area of the Nine Mile Creek watershed north of Otisco Lake. The second largest contributor to Onondaga Lake, the Nine Mile Creek watershed comprises 40 percent of the total Onondaga Lake watershed area.

Over the past several decades, the need to remediate industrial pollutants on the shore of Onondaga Lake has been the foremost water resources priority in the Syracuse metropolitan area. Now that cleanup efforts are well underway, the future of Onondaga Lake looks much brighter, and new water resources priorities are beginning to take shape. One of these priorities is Nine Mile Creek and its watershed. Unlike Onondaga Lake and its other main tributary, Onondaga Creek, Nine Mile Creek is important because of its near-pristine quality. Slow development of most of the Nine Mile Creek watershed and preservation efforts by the Central New York Land Trust have contributed to keeping Nine Mile Creek a scenic, clean, and prized resource. However, there are no significant land use policies or strategies in place to ensure that the creek is protected into the future. The watershed is very attractive for future development. For the future quality of Onondaga Lake and for Nine Mile Creek itself, attention needs to be focused on this watershed.

The purpose of this report is to call attention to the resource quality and land use opportunities and constraints in the Nine Mile Creek watershed. The report includes detailed inventory of physical, biological, and cultural conditions in the watershed. It also contains three main explorations that could guide future planning efforts: landscape conservation and habitat connectivity; development suitability, and recreation/ site design opportunities.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) Student Planning and Design Team, enrolled in the LSA 470/670 Planning Thematic Studio of the Department of Landscape Architecture, conducted the analyses and prepared this report in the spring of 2013. This group of undergraduate and graduate students worked in collaboration with the Nine Mile Creek Conservation Council (NMCCC). This study provides a resource inventory and analysis that will serve as a basis for a full watershed management plan of Nine Mile Creek. Residents of the region and of the Nine Mile Creek watershed in particular, are encouraged to “think like a watershed.”

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