On Thursday, November 19, 2009, Faithkeeper Oren Lyons joined Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, DEC Commissioner Alexander “Pete” Grannis, Mayor Matt Driscoll and Samuel Sage of Atlantic State Legal Foundation to celebrate an important victory for Onondaga Creek and Lake and for everyone who lives in the Central New York Community. Under the Nation’s leadership the County’s plan for handling the combined sewer overflows that have dumped raw sewage into the Creek each time it rains, have improved greatly. Rather that the planned construction of “regional facilities” which would not treat the sewage, but would add chlorine and de-chlorination chemicals, green infrastructure will be employed in many smaller applications.
Green infrastructure mimics nature by getting the rain water to disperse into the ground, not into the sewers and includes such practices as green roofs, rain barrels, rain gardens, vegetated swales, pervious pavement and planting many thousands of trees.
Oren’s presence on this stage and his remarks, combined with the very favorable comments of Ms. Mahoney and Commissioner Grannis as they recognized and expressed sincere gratitude for the leadership role of the Nation, and its environmental team, headed by Jeanne Shenandoah and Joe Heath.
In January of 2008, we joined with Sam Sage and convinced Joanie not to build the planned regional facility in Armory Square and we then persuaded Commissioner Grannis that Syracuse and Onondaga County could be the pilot program, with the first comprehensive green infrastructure program in the state. We also worked with Sam to bring Syracuse University, the City of Syracuse, and the School of Environmental Science and Forestry, and many others on board.
Another critical partner in this success was the Partnership for Onondaga Creek, who have worked tirelessly for 10 years to protect their neighbor and the Creek and have worked very closely and cooperatively with the Onondaga Nation.
This very positive change of plans illustrates what leaders can accomplish when they work together respectfully and follow a principle of the Great Law of Peace: that everyone bring their good minds together to find the best solution for all, for the natural world and for the seventh generation yet to come. Thursday’s event was yet another example of the healing brought about by the filing of the Onondaga Nation’s Land Rights Action.