Tompkins County Stream
Corridor Protection and Management
Stream buffers provide a number of services to both the properties on which they reside and those downstream. Chief among those services are increased water quality and wildlife habitat benefits.
"Enhancing Water Resources in Tompkins County: Benefits of Riparian Areas and Stream Buffers (PDF)” developed by the Tompkins County Planning Department is designed to facilitate a greater understanding of these benefits and further outline the buffer widths needed to sustain these benefits.
A variety of regulatory and non-regulatory tools have been developed and field tested by Tompkins County and are available to enhance and protect riparian buffers. From 2007 through 2010, Tompkins County refined these tools through the implementation of various streamside projects. These projects resulted in the restoration or protection of over 11,000 linear feet of streambank and the planting of over 1,800 native trees and shrubs. Through December 2010, projects have been implemented in four different watersheds and six different municipalities.
The specific stream corridor protection and management tools include:
This visually rich planting guide may be used by both landowners and conservation partners to help visualize how and what to plant to establish healthy stream buffer areas.
A Riparian Protection Agreement may be used by landowners in conjunction with an entity willing to enforce the terms of the agreement in perpetuity. It is a tool to help ensure the long-term protection of a restored riparian buffer through a legally binding document filed with the County Clerk. Tompkins County has used this document in tandem with a land survey to restrict uses that would be detrimental to the health of recent tree and shrub plantings such as dumping or tree harvest.
A Riparian Buffer Easement may be used by landowners in conjunction with an entity willing to enforce the terms of the easement in perpetuity. The easement is used to help protect investments made in the restoration of riparian corridors and to ensure the long-term protection of the easement area through a legally binding document filed with the County Clerk. Tompkins County has used this document in situations where it has invested public funds into restoring buffer areas. The easement is tied to a survey which formally establishes a buffer area in which uses are restricted such as dumping and unsustainable tree harvest. This easement is more detailed than a Riparian Protection Agreement and typically is used in larger scale projects.
Local governments can adopt a stream buffer ordinance or zoning provision to restrict development adjacent to streams. The Tompkins County Planning Department has prepared a model ordinance that recommends a 100-foot stream buffer on either side of perennial streams. The buffer is made up of two parts: a natural vegetative buffer of 50 feet from the stream edge, and a more permissive buffer that extends 50 feet upland of the vegetative buffer.
For more information on the use of these tools or for more detail on stream buffer protection and management in Tompkins County including the Stream Corridor Restoration & Flood Hazard Mitigation Program, please email the Tompkins County Planning Department or call at 607-274-5560.