Writing for Made in Shoreditch

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Local Sourcing: A Finger Lake Tradition

To drop everything, pack up and move from suburban New Jersey to the shores of Seneca Lake to open your first restaurant may sound like a daunting task; but for Bob and Suzanne Stack of Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine, the move was “natural” and aided by the area’s “very welcoming community.”

“We grew up both with gardens and eating from that was our source of food,” Bob Stack said. “[And] it was a very easy transition from a business standpoint coming into the area and saying, ‘Hey, I’m gonna open a restaurant,’ and you have people knocking at your door, trying to sell you produce.”

The Stacks’s story is not uncommon in the region, given the 28 restaurants that source from local farms in Tompkins County alone and the 4,300 households that are Community Supported Agriculture Farm Share subscribers to over 30 farm and food businesses, Monika Roth, leader of the Cooperative Agriculture Program, said.

More than just having high numbers of participation in the year 2014, Stack explains this is a trend that will only grow in the coming years, particularly in this region.

“There’s a lot of young farmers [in their 20s] that are wanting to grow and have these boutique farms,” Stack said, who sources from six local farms in addition to his own garden. “It’s kinda in vogue today and its pretty cool.”

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Building relationships with these up-and-coming farmers as well as those they’ve worked with in their restaurant’s 12 years was the biggest challenge for the Stacks and is a challenge Wynnie Stein ofMoosewood Restaurant knows all too well.

“I see [local sourcing] as a collaboration for farmers, restaurants, tours, artists, and food product developers to pull their thinking and creativity and work together to make this successful into the future,” Stein said. “It’s a no brainer that this area has so much to offer — it’s so rich in resources and creative people. I have no doubt this is going to be a major player in agriculinary tourism.”

One important crop that has yielded big results for the tourism industry over the last several decades has been the cultivation of grapes for wine production. Amber Zadronzy, tasting room manager of Six Mile Creek Vineyard said the process of sourcing to local area restaurants is similar for wineries to that of farmers — both in the actual distribution and in building a community between the businesses.

Six Mile Creek Vineyard has been around since the late 1980s like many other wineries in the region. Because so many of them opened around the same time, “everybody knows everybody,” Zadronzy explains, and, thus, the owners have formed a working community. “[As a newcomer to the group,] it’s cool coming in as a new face and working my way through the network.”

With an expanding support base, the future, as Stack said, is “obviously bright” for restaurant owners and producers in the Finger Lakes Region.

“If you said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna open up a restaurant and my mantra is gonna be I’m not gonna locally source foods,’ it’s almost like you’re trying to sell something that nobody wants to buy — it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It’s such a natural that it would be silly to try and go against that trend.”

Restaurants aren’t the only businesses that locally source their products, however. Zadronzy said in addition to sourcing Six Mile Creek wine in local restaurants, like Bandwagon Pub and Agava, the winery sources red grapes from local wineries like Serenity Vineyards,Glenora Winery and Knapp Winery.

“If you’re spending your money, whether it be business money or personal money, in your local community, it will stay in our local community and make your local community stronger than if you’re sending it to a different community that might not see the money,” Zadronzy said. “It’s nice to keep it at home because you’re strengthening the place you live and work and the relationships and people you know.”

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Coltivare: Ithaca’s Newest Educational Culinary Experience

Downtown Ithaca will soon be home to its first farm-to-bistro restaurant and educational facility with the opening of Coltivare on Dec. 13. The restaurant, affiliated with Tompkins Cortland Community College, will offer a unique dining experience to its customers while also serving as a culinary school for TC3’s students.

Marketing coordinator for Coltivare Annie Quach said Coltivare’s mission differentiates from most restaurants because of the purpose it serves. As a part of TC3, Coltivare not only serves a dining experience, but also uses classrooms in the building to offer a hands-on experience to students pursuing a degree in wine marketing, culinary arts, hotel restaurant management, environmental studies, sustainable farming and food systems and entrepreneurship.

While the concept had been in the works for several years, Quach said the grants for funding were only received three years ago and that construction began this past year. Coltivare was granted $2.3 million from the state, and later received a $2million cash gift, which made TC3 commitment to the Farm and Bistro program final.

“I think that we’re different just because of what we are. We’re a culinary center —we’re not just a restaurant and we’re not just a bar — we’re an educational facility and a special events space,” Quach said. “We differentiate ourselves because our mission is a little different, in that we’re here to educate as well as run a business.”

Coltivare also differs from other restaurants because of the ingredients and items found in the menu. While the program focuses on teaching students how to prepare the food, they are also heavily focused on making sure all the food comes from local sources, allowing students to be a part of the food process from the farm to the fork.

Quach said the team at Coltivare tries to find all their menu items within a 300-mile radius. In addition to TC3’s own agricultural education program’s farm, the restaurant also sources from local farms such as The Piggery, Kilcoyne Farms, Lively Run Dairy andNorthland Sheep Dairy.

On top of sourcing local produce and goods, an integral part of Coltivare’s mission is to operate as sustainably as possible, Quach says. Part of this mission includes a new waste management program, the first of its kind in the United States, called the IMC Waste Station.

By disposing of all food scraps, the system removes 80 percent of all liquid and reduces to a grain-like compostable form, which is then returned to the TC3 farm.

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Denis Boucher, director of the Culinary Center at Coltivare, discussed the differences between Coltivare and other culinary student-run restaurants.

“We have a free standing restaurant very similar to [other culinary schools but] we’re very different in that we’re operating this restaurant kind of independent of the school,” he said. “We won’t be dependent upon the school schedule. This restaurant will be open no matter what. When the students are ready for certain areas they will be plugged in along with professionals in the industry.”

Boucher says Coltivare offers a unique learning experience because it allows for direct contact with a professional kitchen. This way, students understand the flow of the workplace before graduating and so that they “get a taste of the ‘wolves’ before they go out into the industry.”

In order for Coltivare to be a successful place of business and education, Boucher stressed the need to bridge the gap of communication between operations and education in typical culinary educational restaurants. “We are here for education, but if we don’t have the restaurant then we don’t have the education. Everybody has to understand from the very beginning that we’re all in this together – we’re all a team.”

The menu will include a variety of dishes prepared in different forms such as sautees, braises, and broils so that students will have a well-rounded knowledge and experience in the kitchen with such. “We always have to realize our menu isn’t just a menu, it’s a menu that’s designed for education yet still be appropriate for the market we’re trying to draw.”

Coltivare will officially open to the public Saturday, Dec. 13 for its dining and bar areas.

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Task force aims to increase agri-culinary tourism

While visiting Europe and touring English farms with family over 30 years ago, Rita Rosenberg decided then she wanted to spend her retirement pursuing and living that lifestyle. Now, Rosenberg and husband Don have had a successful 65-acre farm in the town of Caroline for 25 years, where they rent their small cottage to visitors, raise their own animals, and grow fruits and vegetables.

“I’m teaching kids and adults who come and want to learn about sustainable agriculture,” she said. “So that experiential learning is key, and just educating people on the impact that they can have they can have on this earth by growing their own food.”

Her farm is part of the agri-culinary tourism movement, which the Strategic Tourism Planning Board of Tompkins County is working to grow and develop. Rosenberg is the co-chair for the Agri-Culinary Tourism Task Force that is working with the board to implement initiatives to meet their objectives in the 2020 Tompkins County Strategic Tourism Plan.

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By 2020 the task force has three objectives: to increase the number of visitors to the wineries from 17 to 20 percent by 2016; to receive recognition in five or more national media outlets for culinary or agritourism; and to increase Finger Lakes Wine Center visits each year.

In 2012, visitors to Tompkins County spent $174 million and each person spent an average of $92 on dining.

The task force held a workshop on Nov. 10 to discuss ideas with local restaurants, farms, wineries, breweries, professors and students on how agri-culinary tourism can be improved in the greater Ithaca area. The workshop had over 100 attendees.

“Our vision is to help hundreds of farmers, food producers, chefs, restaurants, wine-makers- everyone who is here tonight- make a good living while growing tourism in Tompkins County and making the Finger Lakes the premier destination for authentic and widening memorable farm and food experiences,” Tom Knipe, senior planner and tourism coordinator for STPB, said during the workshop.

Many of the attendees supported the idea of increasing partnerships between farms and restaurants, like Athena Steinkraus, whose family owns Little Tree Orchards in Newfield.

“I think people are moving more towards farm to fork and farm to table, and a lot of local restaurants are partnering with farmers for their vegetables, fruits, wines, and stuff like that,” she said. “So [we’re trying] to really get that word out there to the people to say ‘Hey, come here! This is a hub for these local products.’”

Moosewood is an Ithaca restaurant that is a strong proponent of locally sourcing food, and Wynnie Stein, one of the owners, wants other restaurants to follow the same practice.

“I’m part of this agritourism community, representing and having been involved in buying from local farmers for Moosewood for over 35 years,” she said. “This is what I believe is the future of our area, because the quality of products and the beauty of people’s energy and spirit that’s coming into everything.”

While the event’s main purpose was to brainstorm ideas to increase agri-culinary tourism in the area, the workshop also served as a way for businesses to network and establish new connections.

“For myself, I would love to get some networking out of [the event],” Amber Zadrozny, the Tasting Room Manager of Six Mile Creek Vineyard, said. “Not just on a personal level but maybe find businesses that can work together and host special events together, some mutual advertising, [and] just some ways that we can support each other in the community.”

Some of the favored ideas that came out of the workshop include creating a local food app for smartphones, cooking classes after touring farms and wineries, and local familiarization tours to inform tourists about community resources.

The task force will be meeting in early December to discuss the ideas from the workshop and decide what it will implement.

(To see flash element, please visit Ithaca Week )

One year after “riots,” SUNY Cortland and city prepare for Cortaca Jug game

It made USA Today and NBC News. Newspapers and television stations as far away as London and Paris were reporting on this breaking story in Central New York.

A disease? A shooting?

Try over 3,000 college students partying in the streets.

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But in light of the events following last year’s Cortaca Jug football game, and with the 2014 installment of “the Jug” occurring this weekend, the focus is now on how to “take back Cortaca,” a mantra now used by the university in its efforts to positively host the annual event.

“A lot of students last year felt that Cortaca was hijacked by outside visitors. It was very rare it was a Cortland Student [being arrested for rioting],” Bitterbaum explained. “So they want to take it back so it’s for them.”

The University and City of Cortland formed a commission immediately following last year’s event and will now put into action several initiatives to curb the ‘party” culture surrounding the game. Musical act White Panda will headline a Saturday night concert at the school from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m while $20,000 worth of door-prizes will be given out. There will also be “clean-up teams” on Sunday morning following the game to collect trash in the community by noon.

Town bars will also open “much later” than last year, when many opened their doors at 8 a.m.

But for long-time Cortland resident Stephen Mosher, the new changes could cause further harm to the city beyond the November 15th game. “[After last year] I thought, ‘next year, it’s going to be very different because crap is gonna rain down on all the business of Cortland, and that’s exactly what’s happened. Nothing is going to [go wrong, and] they already managed to close down three bars this week.”

How the event is policed will also change—something Mosher fears could turn Cortland into a “police state.”

The SUNY Cortland University Police Department will be assisted by other SUNY school’s police while the City of Cortland’s police will be focused throughout the city, Frederic Pierce, the Director of Public Relations at SUNY Cortland, said.

“There has been an increased cooperation between the city and the college to work collaboratively so that the events of last year are not duplicated,” Chief Catalano said. “There will be a very heavy police presence, with the assistance of other police agencies, throughout the weekend.”

Clayton Street in Cortland, N.Y. was flooded with somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 intoxicated, college-aged students following SUNY Cortland’s 28-24 victory in the annual rivalry game. About 80 people were arrested, according to SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum. The majority of these students were not enrolled at SUNY Cortland and were either students at Tompkins Cortland Community College, high school students or simply visiting from out of town for the event.

Police forces on the South Hill will also be furthering their efforts.

“Public Safety is teaming with SGA, RHA and other organizations to walk through the off-campus housing areas to speak with students/residents,” David Dray, Deputy Chief of the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management said. “We will be talking about “partying responsibly” as well as being “a good neighbor”. We want everyone to enjoy the game and festivities, but to be respectful of others.”

Even with all the initiatives to create more positive environment for the college communities, some students still feel the efforts to “bounce back” from last year are futile and that the damage has already been done.

“This is my image now when I graduate and have to go on interviews,” Gen Montreuil, a SUNY Cortland senior, said. “But I felt like a lot of Cortland students thought it was awesome to be recognized for all this—that we were the “coolest school,” she explained. “I don’t think they realize all the repercussions that will come from it.”

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Catholic leaders reach out to LGBT community internationally and locally

The leader of the Catholic Church verbally welcomed the LGBT community during the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Families in Rome, but revealing the accessibility of the church isn’t something new to the world or the Ithaca area.

Documents published in 1975 by high ranking Catholic leaders acknowledge that the church should accept homosexuals. Pope Francis’ announced on October 19th that people who are LGBT “have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” is a sentiment some Catholics have heard before.

“The idea that everyone who has been baptized has gifts and talents is nothing new. It’s just been ignored,” Father Daniel McCullin, sacramental minister and associate director of Cornell United Religious Work at Cornell University, said. “This pope said nothing that hasn’t already been said. It really shocked some people because he was so straightforward about it.”

McCullin, who is an openly gay man, has been working with Cornell University and Ithaca College for 17 years. Being gay isn’t just about your sexuality, McCullin says. “Your orientation gives you a different perspective on the world.” He admits that even though there were moments of struggle with his relationship to the Church, he wouldn’t be in this job today if he wasn’t true to himself and his sexuality.

Although the church seems more open to the LGBT community, McCullin says the Catholic Church tradition overall has a more fundamental interpretation and stance on sexuality than other Christian traditions.

Throughout history, the Catholic Church has had a public perception of being strict but that idea may be changing. Instead of “wagging the finger,” Campus Minister for Cornell University and Ithaca College Catholic Community Andrew Bardetti says Pope Francis is trying to have more positive conversations on LGBT issues.

One way of forging a better relationship is through campus and community events. Ithaca College chaplains joined with The Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services to create “Chocolates with the Chaplains” in 2009, which invites students and the chaplains to meet.

“Having those regular public events that are geared towards meeting and extending (are important). Maybe you meet a student and have a deep connection and forge a great bond or not. Most likely not, but you’re starting that process,” Bardetti said.

The religious communities on campus reached out to the LGBT Center’s Program Director Luca Maurer to make sure that new students know the chaplains are a resource for them, especially if they need help reconciling their spirituality and sexuality.

“They aren’t separate communities – it’s not the Catholic community and the LGBT community,” Maurer said. “We have LGBT students, staff, and faculty that are also Catholic. Not just on this campus, but in the country the discussion is characterized as if those are two completely separate groups of people and that is not the case.”

Maurer added that LGBT students come in with preconceived notions based on the level of respect received from their home Catholic communities often expect the same treatment from Ithaca community.

Ithaca College Junior James Bowe is one of those LGBT Catholic students, who was bullied at two Catholic middle schools. After that, the priest from his church approved him to go to public school following such, something he is grateful for today.

“I would’ve never gone to public school and met the people I did, and I would’ve never started swimming, which led me to Ithaca,” Bowe said. He said that he met the most welcoming and accepting people through the sport, which has played a major role in his life.

Maurer says once students understand that they’re welcomed and supported by the Ithaca Catholic community, they were delighted to hear that Pope Francis was saying positive things about LGBT people.

“Though they felt safe and supported on campus, what I heard from students was delight- that they were not used to hearing anything positive from someone at the very highest level of their church,” Maurer said.

 

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City Seeks Approval to Legislate Countywide Taxicab Regulations

The City of Ithaca is scheduled to pass a new legislation through the Tompkins County Council of Governments to set county wide taxicab regulations following a meeting Thursday.

The new legislation would require Tompkins County to set rules for taxicab companies, but in order to do, so a special New York State enabling legislation must be passed to give the authority to the county, Holcomb said.

In New York State, only municipalities have the authority to regulate taxicab activities, according to the New York State Municipal Home Rule Law.

“The City can only regulate rates within the City boundaries.  The Town of Ithaca has legislation but only addresses rates and does not address vehicle or driver safety issues,” Julie Holcomb, City of Ithaca’s City Clerk, said. “We believe that we should take a more comprehensive approach and develop county-wide legislation.”

Holcomb is currently working to assemble a sub-committee in order to begin drafting the legislation as well as contacting attorneys to assess the New York State enabling legislation process.

“While there is a regulated fare schedule for within City trips, trips that begin in the City and terminate outside and vice versa are not regulated,” John Kadar, President of Ithaca Dispatch, said. “The Town of Ithaca, wherein Ithaca College is located, does have a fare schedule but it is unenforceable and outdated,” he said. “Hence, each taxicab company sets their own rates for trips that begin or end out of the City.”

Many of the complaints received by the City of Ithaca are about rates for rides ending or starting outside of city limits. Holcomb has been collecting these complaints and plans to make adjustments to the legislation for effectiveness.

“Since City of Ithaca fares have not been increased since 2006 most of us in Ithaca have to focus continuously on cost saving measures,” Kadar said. “This is not always in the best interest of the public because it lessens our financial ability to improve service by providing better, newer, more fuel efficient taxicabs and also to install dispatching technologies that would result in improving our arrival times.”

The new legislation would create taxicab zones and rates as well as set other fee related standards, such as fees for additional luggage, passengers, late night surcharges, and group rides.

“They want rate increases and I can’t blame them, it’s been quite a while since rates were increased,” Jamie Williamson Ithaca Police Department’s spokesperson said. “They [also] wanted the application process sped up, they wanted a little more leeway on being able to hire people that have made mistakes in their past,” he said.

IPD issues taxicab licenses for both new applicants and annual renewals. Williamson said IPD typically receives 10 to 20 new applicants every year on top of the 30 to 35 taxicab drivers renewing their licenses.

If a vehicle-traffic complaint is determined to be about a taxicab driver, he will begin an internal investigation and speak with the operator, witnesses, and anyone else of importance in the matter, Williamson said.

“Just like I would with any other criminal investigation, [I would] determine what’s the best way to proceed – should the person be issued a warning, should they be issued a letter of reprimand from the police department, should their license be suspended or revoked, any number of courses of action we can take,” Williamson said.

While applicants are fingerprinted and have intensive background checks run on their record, many Ithaca taxicab companies use livery plates, which are the necessary plates for any vehicle licensed to hire and charge a fee for passengers.

“The devil is in the details because some taxicab companies in Ithaca are not really taxicab companies. They may have one or two taxicab permits and a few drivers with City of Ithaca taxicab licenses but their fleet consists primarily of livery plated vehicles,” Kadar said. “The drivers of livery plated vehicles are not subject to either background or traffic violation checks by IPD. Also, livery plated vehicles are not safety inspected by IPD.” Ithaca Dispatch currently has four livery plated vehicles within its company.

The new legislation would set requirements for licenses for taxicab companies and drivers and have safety standards in effect for the taxi vehicles in operation.

Local businesses discuss delayed Commons construction

Ithaca Commons business owners gathered at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting to express frustration over the ongoing construction on the Commons, which has been delayed.

The Ithaca Commons Update Project has been in the works since spring of 2013 and was set to be completed by Thanksgiving of this year, but will now go into Spring of 2015.

“With small business, which is a lot of what we heard at Wednesday night’s Common Council meeting, their margins are so slim that any of that [construction] can hurt their business and their families. And it has been too long, which is why they decided to get together and make their voices heard,” Michael Kuo, project manager of the Commons Update said.

Now You’re Cooking Co-Owner Jerry Martins, organized the meeting. “I went with a list, like 45 businesses, the only ones I had the chance to go to, and no one refused to sign that list,” Martins said.

Many businesses are down an employee or two, Martins said. “People may have not have been fired but certainly not rehired if they left because there’s so much less business. That’s a lot of unemployment, if you add it all up. A lot of people are out of work.”

“We suffered a lot, but I believe they’re going to help and they will do their best to keep us in life,” Casablanca owner Adil Griguihi said. His pizzeria downtown was one of the businesses at Wednesday’s council meeting.

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance has also been working with business owners and the city council to try to come up with solutions to help struggling businesses survive until the construction’s completion.

“We’re trying to be a convener and facilitator,” DIA executive director  Gary Ferguson said. “We’re trying to work both parties and put together a checklist and work toward achieving some of those [solutions], whatever they are.”

The delay was in part due to the city’s decision to replace the natural gas lines. It was difficult to continue working alongside the replacement, and that’s the reason why progress over the summer was stalled, Kuo said.

Kuo announced the revised schedule for the project at Wednesday’s meeting. “After getting a reasonable projection after meeting with my contractors, we put together that we’d finish half of the Commons by this Thanksgiving, so Bank Alley and the southern end from Trolley Circle.”

Once the freezing temperatures roll in, the construction are expected to come to a halt. “If nighttime temperatures drop significantly below freezing, you won’t get a good cure in your concrete and your concrete can become weak and fail, and then all the work that we’ve done and put in would have to get ripped out and replaced,” Kuo said.

“We are in trouble,” said Martins. “And for this Christmas to be dark down here with this kind of thing, you know, some businesses aren’t gonna make it.”

Work to finish the northern end of the Commons will resume in the Spring of 2015 as soon as weather permits, following the city’s promise of a speedy completion.

Dryden school starts marching band despite budget cuts

The bell rings at precisely 11:25 a.m. Students rush down the hall and drop their brightly colored backpacks along the wall outside of the classroom. They won’t need textbooks or calculators for this particular subject. Instead, they retrieve instrument cases from their lockers that seem, in some instances, larger than the students carrying them and file into the band room.

Despite the fact that Dryden High School is still reeling from a $933,074 deficit in its budget from the 2012-2013 year, band teacher Robert Oldroyd is breathing new life into the music department. After just five weeks of entering the school district, Oldroyd plans to change the music curriculum to create a marching band that will represent the school district.

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“Typically, a high school program has a marching band,” Oldroyd said, “My idea for Dryden is to create a parade band that will be involved in the Ithaca community providing a civic duty by playing at parades, Memorial Day services and football games. We want to play great music and be an integral part of the community.”

No other school district in Tompkins County has a marching band. Groton High School lost its marching band due to budget cuts, said Liz Eleck, a music teacher who has taught in the Groton Central School District for the past 28 years.

“We don’t have a marching band anymore. We were asked to make a ten percent cut to the marching band staff and it wasn’t possible for us to continue with that much of a cut,” Eleck said.

 While the lack of funding has kept Oldroyd from implementing a few of his new ideas for the department so far, such as an update to the music wing itself, he said that he was optimistic that insufficient funding would not be an paramount obstacle for the creation and sustainability of the marching band.

“I think sometimes there’s a misconception that you need a lot of money to make something successful,” Oldroyd said, “Government funding would help, but it’s not the end all. If the teacher cares about the students then they’ll find a way to make it work.”

 The creation of a marching band at Dryden High School will be central for the music department’s civic duty to its neighborhood, Oldroyd said.

 “The community does a lot for music programs and it’s our way of giving back by having a high performing marching band that is active in the community,” Oldroyd said.

 The community has helped to sustain their music department in the past years for endeavors outside of the music budget, such as the parent-run Lansing Theater and Performing Arts Booster Club, said Katie Howell, an elementary general music teacher at Lansing’s R.C. Buckley School.

“From what I’ve seen in the three-plus years I’ve worked here, Lansing considers music to be of equal value to other academic pursuits and protects it just as carefully when making budget decisions.”

Eleck said music classes are important because they give students an opportunity to use their brain, body and emotion in tandem, which is something students are not able to do in any other classroom setting.

 “Music is a skill that will last you forever; if you’ve had music in school usually it will carry through the rest of your life,” she said.

City of Ithaca to renovate Six Mile Creek drinking water system

Ithaca’s Water Treatment Plant is in the first stages of a renovation project for the drinking water system of the City of Ithaca, specifically to the Six Mile Creek watershed.

The city has implemented a new series of contracts, including road improvements, an overhaul of the old water pipeline infrastructure, and an additional water treatment intake plant near Third Dam.

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The scheduled completion date for the water project is expected to be in the fall of 2016 said Chuck Baker, manager at the City of Ithaca Water Treatment Plant.

“The city has recently been trying to get a handle on what kind of dredging maintenance has to happen in the streams as they go through the City of Ithaca,” said Roxy Johnston, lab director for the Ithaca Water Treatment Plant and watershed coordinator for the City of Ithaca. “They are not really natural channels anymore. They’ve been channelized with concrete walls for a long time so they don’t clean out the way a natural stream would.”

Six Mile Creek is a sub-watershed of the Cayuga Lake watershed. Johnston described a watershed as all the land that drains into one body of water.

“The watershed area is probably one of the more logical units of land to work with or manage from an ecological perspective because everything is connected,” Johnston said.

While past water quality tests have proved the water has not been harmed by contaminants, a problem still remains with the level of silt in the watershed. The process of dredging watersheds is used to sift through the silt ponds and sequester it out until dried. Since the city’s cancellation of the dredging sub-contractor eight years ago, the creeks have remained without regular maintenance and the reservoirs have become clogged.

The end goal of filtration is to reach a set standard of taste, odor, and clarity Johnston said. “Right now, we have what’s called a conventional water treatment plant. We do the settling, coagulation, filtration, and then chlorination. Water comes in, there’s a quick mix of chemicals, and then there’s a slow mix during which time we inject a polymer, a sticky substance which attracts particles in the water.”

In order to keep filtration costs down, the City of Ithaca hopes the new installments in the water treatment system will counteract rising silt levels. As of last year, filtration per one thousand gallons cost $6.35 with an overall water plant budget of $1.51 million.

To monitor water quality and silt levels, annual testing takes place in the watershed four to six times a year with the help of the Community Science Institute and volunteers to ensure water levels are meeting state and federal regulations.

The Community Science Institute (CSI) organizes three different kinds of water testing annually.

“By doing [synoptic testing] we get a good snapshot of water quality,” Becky Sims, the Director of Outreach at CSI who helps organizes these tests, explained. “If you do it repeatedly over time, you can start to understand more about the watershed and how nutrients and pollutants move through it.”

Earlier in September, a synoptic water sampling took place along various points on Six Mile Creek with the help of volunteers. James Hamilton, a ten-year veteran of the water sampling process, gathered samples as well as tested flow and temperature of the water in his designated area along the creek.

“[The testing] proves that we’ve been paying attention to [Six Mile Creek], and it’s in good shape,” Hamilton said. “If we ever found a problem, we could look into it some more.”

The Community Science Institute will continue to monitor levels and water quality throughout the watershed while renovations are under way.