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City completes watershed sale

Rochester Mayor Robert J. Duffy and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis last week announced that the state’s purchase of Hemlock and Canadice lakes is complete.

Rochester sold the parcels  for a total of $13.7 million.

The transaction — in the works for more than two years — is designed to enable the preservation of the last two undeveloped Finger Lakes, which have supplied water to Rochester for more than 130 years.

A release from the state notes that the city recognized the value of protecting the source of its public water supply in 1895, and began acquiring watershed property adjacent to the lakes. By 1950, it owned 7,000 acres of critical shoreline property.

The lakes have been identified as a “high priority” on the state’s Open Space Conservation Program since its inception in 1992, and also are a prime fish and wildlife habitat. In the 1970s, the only bald eagle nest in New York was at Hemlock Lake. The two lakes support a premier cold water trout fishery.

NYSDEC will continue property maintenance and preservation and a long-term, comprehensive unit management plan will be developed for the property, with extensive public input.

“This is without a doubt the most important land acquisition project the state has undertaken outside of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks in more than a generation,” Grannis said in a press release. “The watershed will be forever preserved, keeping it in its natural, forested state, and providing a continuous source of clean drinking water and recreational opportunities for residents of Rochester and surrounding communities.”