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Onondaga Creek issue boils up as restoration talks for Onondaga Lake continue

Ellen Abbott
Syracuse resident Aggie Lane's property is next to Onondaga Creek and wants something to be done about the mud boils.

As the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continue asking for input into a series of restoration projects for Onondaga Lake, one group of central New Yorkers feels left out. Some southside Syracuse residents want officials to take into account a problem that’s plagued them for years -- a muddy, inaccessible Onondaga Creek.

Onondaga Creek starts about 15 miles south of Syracuse, flowing north through the Onondaga Nation, the city of Syracuse, into Onondaga Lake. But before that water gets to the lake, a series of mud boils spew tons of silt into the water, creating a muddy mess by the time it gets to the lake.

Aggie Lane's property in Syracuse butts up against the creek.

"If you go to the headwaters before the mud boils, it’s crystal clear. And this creek has been damaged for the people in the creek, the Onondaga Nation, and anybody who really would like to fish that stream,” said Lane.

The mud boils have been studied for years. A recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey says they are naturally occurring, but also may have been made worse by industrial mining in the area. Lane and others want that taken into account as the state and federal governments plan the remediation projects meant to pay back central New Yorkers for the decades of industrial pollution that kept Onondaga Lake off limits.

Ken Lynch, with the DEC, says ideas about the creek could be included in what’s called the Resource Damages plan. But he notes the mud boil issue is already being studied by the state, and that could provide more relief for these residents.

"We are funding that moving forward, and then hopefully will have some ideas that we can actually implement -- not as part of Natural Resource Damage, but part of another process,” Lynch said.

He says officials will continue to take comments through a June deadline. Lane and others have criticized that timetable, saying they don’t have enough time to come up with proposals.The Natural Resource Damages Assessment plan includes 22 ideas to improve recreation and wildlife habitat along the lake.