Bill Preserving Waterways Used for Drinking Water, Fishing Now Awaits Governor’s Signature 

BUFFALO New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan joined Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka to announce the passage of a landmark bill (A.8349 / S.5612-A) that will protect class C streams and waterways in New York State. The bill has passed both houses of the legislature and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature. 

The legislation ensures proper protection to waterways that are used for drinking water, fishing and recreation by adding Class C streams to the waterways included in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Protection of Waters Regulatory Program. 

Last year, the Trump Administration pushed the Federal Government to roll back clean water protections that had been in place since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, and which were later strengthened under President Obama 

—impacting about 50% of the streams statewide. In New York, however, Class AA and A streams (drinking water sources), Class B streams (swimming and contact recreation) and Class T and TS streams (supporting trout populations and trout spawning) have been afforded the extra, longstanding DEC protection. Now, the Class C streams are similarly protected. 

More than 11.2 million New Yorkers are dependent on public water systems that rely on small streams to supply clean drinking water. In addition, a recent DEC Angler Survey showed that New York State freshwater sport fisheries generate more than $2 billion a year and support nearly 11,000 jobs statewide, providing undeniable economic proof of why it’s vitally important for New York State to preserve and protect its Class C waterways. 

The newly passed bill, when signed into law, will extend DEC protections to over 40,000 miles of Class C streams across New York, including Tonawanda Creek, Cayuga Creek, the Buffalo River and portions of Scajaquada Creek. 

A wide range of environmental advocacy groups supported Ryan’s legislation, with the New York League of Conservation Voters noting that Class C streams and waterways are valuable resources that “provide natural resiliency against the impacts of climate change.” 

“Here in New York we’ve made great progress in protecting our waterways under the Clean Water Act, and this bill will allow us to continue that work,” said Assemblyman Sean Ryan. “Now more than ever it’s vitally important we take the steps necessary to protect our environment. I’m proud to stand with all of the hard-working groups who have helped us make this bill a reality and thank them for their tireless advocacy for our environment.” 

“As responsible stewards of our environment, we must always look for opportunities to increase our efforts to safeguard the streams and watersheds around us, and that’s what this legislation does,” said Senator Pete Harckham, who sponsored the Senate version of the Bill. “It also maintains the quality of our drinking water around the state while still allowing residents to enjoy fishing, boating and non-contact activities on certain waterways.” 

“The New York State Senate and Assembly have taken a historic step to push 

back on the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act rollbacks. If signed into law by Governor Cuomo, 41,000 miles of streams in New York at risk from Trump’s Dirty Water Rule now stand to gain additional state protections.” Said Jeremy Cherson, legislative advocacy manager for Riverkeeper. “The unscientific federal rule challenged in court by Attorney General James and a coalition of states went into effect on June 22nd and limits federal jurisdiction for seasonal and rain-fed streams that are often the sources for drinking water across the state. The legislation passed by Senator Harckham and Assemblymember Ryan will ensure New York State limits the damage to New York’s clean drinking water and wildlife through new state oversight.” 

“At a time when we are fighting relentless federal environmental rollbacks across the nation, New York State continues to demonstrate national leadership with historic legislation recently passed by the Assembly and Senate, and that is good news for our state’s vulnerable waterways,” said Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. “A huge thank you to Assemblyman Sean Ryan who sponsored the bill and Assemblymembers Burke and Wallace who co-sponsored, and our team was proud to join dozens of advocates in Albany to push for this legislation. If signed into law by Governor Cuomo, many of our Great Lakes tributaries and at-risk Class C streams like Scajaquada Creek will now benefit from greater protections, which demonstrates the importance of maintaining citizen voices and advocacy to defend our fresh water.”