Protecting New York’s Class C Streams Is Vital

by Peter Aronson

Governor Kathy Hochul recently vetoed A. 6652/S. 4162, known as the Class C Streams bill, which was designed to protect New York’s streams by putting them under the supervision of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. 

Given the recent veto, NYLCV is calling for the bill to be included in the Governor’s Executive Budget.

Waters in New York State are assigned a class based on their use. Class C streams are designated to allow fisheries and other non-contact activities, such as picnicking, fishing, camping, and marine life study. Not to mention, more than five million New Yorkers get drinking water from small streams as they replenish groundwater aquifers around the state. 

But the degradation of these natural resources will impact more than recreation and research. These resources also provide natural resilience against the impacts of climate change.

As it stands, without proper regulation, Class C streams are subject to polluting activities. By putting Class C streams under the DEC’s Waters Regulatory Program, the state can protect this valuable resource.

“We at the New York League of Conservation Voters believe it is vital that Class C Streams be added to the Protection of Waters Regulatory Program, allowing the DEC to protect even more of the state’s all-too-vulnerable natural resources,” said NYLCV President Julie Tighe. “By extending the protection of Class C Streams, we will help ensure the long-term health of fisheries and, critically, will shore up the state’s natural resilience against the impacts of climate change.”

Passage of the law is all the more important because the Trump Administration weakened federal protections for waterways. 

According to Riverkeeper, an advocacy organization that seeks to protect and restore the Hudson River from source to sea and safeguard drinking water supplies, the measure would protect 41,000 miles of New York streams from potential pollution. “As we have learned time and time again, it is cheaper to protect streams proactively than to restore natural resources,” said Riverkeeper Senior Manager of Government Affairs, Jeremy Cherson. 

NYLCV thanks Senator Pete Harkham and Assemblyman Steve Englebright for their continued effort and leadership on this issue, and urges Governor Hochul to take the necessary budgetary steps so when the bill makes it to her desk in 2023, she is prepared to sign it without delay.