Edward M. Michalenko, Ph.D., has been President of the Onondaga Environmental Institute more than 20 years and also is Supervisor of the Town of DeWitt. OEI is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to environmental education, research, planning and restoration. Dr. Michalenko manages projects through grants from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Onondaga County.
As an administrator of Onondaga Lake Management Conference and Onondaga Lake Partnership funds, OEI has implemented a number of projects for revitalization of Onondaga Creek, habitat enhancement and non-point source pollution control to Onondaga Lake, including mitigating impacts of sediment and saline water discharges to Onondaga Creek and Lake from the Tully Valley mudboils.
Dr. Michalenko’s applied research has led to innovative remedial strategies for Onondaga Lake. He has advanced a watershed approach and advocated for non-point source control and habitat enhancement plans; established a path for shoreline remediation along the Solvay Wastebeds; promoted an inventory, design, and construction of riparian wetlands and tributary restoration as a means to control flooding, improve water quality, and recover a healthy fishery. Through development of the strategic Onondaga Creek Conceptual Revitalization Plan, Dr. Michalenko was a local pioneer in promoting green infrastructure. His research was instrumental in demonstrating the ineffectiveness of constructing future regional treatment facilities for controlling combined sewer overflows, spurring Onondaga County to change strategy and save millions of dollars. Instead OEI helped organize, establish, and implement Onondaga County’s award winning Save the Rain program. OEI aided in identification of 50 large-scale green infrastructure projects and provided public education, outreach, and implementation for green roofs, rain gardens, and rain barrel installations.
The same research led to an adaptive management program – the Onondaga Lake TributaryMicrobial Trackdown Study. OEI leads this study in bacteria monitoring in Onondaga Creek and tributaries, Ley Creek, and Harbor Brook tracking down urban sewer and stormwater systems leakage, breakage, cross-links, and illicit hookups. Over 2 dozen system corrections have been made, greatly improving water quality at relatively low cost. He also identified the need for and helped the City of Syracuse secure Local Waterfront Revitalization funds.
Dr. Michalenko works closely with leadership of the Onondaga Nation and in support of their goals for a clean environment. For nearly two decades, OEI has conducted water quality monitoring and public education on behalf of the Onondaga Nation. OEI performed data review, conducted environmental media sampling and laboratory analyses, biological inventory, and habitat assessments, and made two submissions to NYSDEC regarding the Clean Water Act list of impaired bodies of water. OEI efforts led to the listing of pathogens in the subwatersheds of Harbor Brook, Ley Creek, Nine Mile Creek, and Onondaga Creek; cyanide in Ley Creek, and of nutrients and turbidity in Onondaga Creek.
OEI has implemented a number of environmental justice grants for underserved youth and low-socio-economic populations pertaining to messaging health advisories to non-English speaking immigrant subsistence fisherman, urban air pollution, healthy homes, and green jobs training. OEI was also the corporate sponsor for the Partnership for Onondaga Creek, and the Onondaga Earth Corps. Dr. Michalenko is a 2008 and 2012 recipient of the federal EPA’s Environmental Quality Award. Current OEI work involves participation in the Tully Valley Mudboil Technical Advisory Group; restoration of brook trout habitat and spawning grounds in the Upper Onondaga Creek watershed; riparian habitat restoration in Ley Creek; efficacy monitoring of combined sewer overflow discharge into a Harbor Brook constructed wetland treatment system; boat steward programming at Onondaga and Oneida Lake Parks to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species; performance of water quality, fishes and benthic invertebrate monitoring and teacher training in support of water quality improvements in the Hudson River; and similar monitoring and public outreach in development of a watershed plan for the town of Poestenkill.
Future research interests and ongoing OEI project pursuits include Onondaga Creek re-naturalization, re-establishment of Atlantic Salmon and Lake Sturgeon to the Onondaga Lake watershed, and establishment of the Onondaga Lake Science Center and operation of a floating classroom.
Dr. Michalenko has co-authored six books and over 40 technical publications on environmental fate and effects of chemicals for the EPA, National Library of Medicine, and the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, and hundreds of records for the Hazardous Substance Database.
He has taught ecology, environmental science, American environmental movement, and environmental education for teachers as an adjunct or visiting faculty member at SUNY ESF, Syracuse University, and LeMoyne College. He received his masters and doctoral degrees from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 1984 and 1991.
Before election as Supervisor of the Town of DeWitt Dr. Michalenko had served 11 years as Town Councilor. As Supervisor he manages operations for the town with more than 135 permanent employees and a budget of just over $16 million dollars. He has established employment policy and procedures via the town’s first employee handbook and implemented annual performance reviews for all permanent employees. He has negotiated multiple union contracts with the Civil Service Employees Association and DeWitt Police Benevolent Association. Over 12 years, he has managed the town budget under the NYS tax cap with an annual average increase less than 0.5%; thereby, maintaining maximum STAR benefit for residents.
He designed DeWitt’s tiered Solid Waste Removal System that lowers costs and promotes recycling, helped establish and expand a park at Fiddler’s Green along Butternut Creek, and serves as a founding Director of the Fiddlers Green Park Association. Ed has led the establishment of a world class all-inclusive recreational sports complex at Carrier Park – the home of Syracuse Challenger baseball. Under his leadership the town also expanded lands, amenities, trails, bridges, and gazebo at Maxwell, Cedar Bay, Ryder and Butternut Creek Parks. He has been a strong advocate of budget constraint, open government, neighborhood improvements, and the environment.
The town is currently converting town streetlights to LED and installing a 2.6 MegaWatt solar farm on the former DeWitt landfill to free the town from fossil fuel consumption for electricity use. Ed has implemented carbon footprint reductions through multiple town projects and initiatives. They include a 51 kW roof top solar array, updated light fixtures, an insulated white energy efficient PVC membrane roof to lower heating and cooling costs, two Chevy bolt electric vehicles and installation of electric charging stations at Town Hall and Carrier Park, adding fuel saving idle controls on trucks and fleet cars, and energy savings software on HVAC systems, etc.
Ed has seven major initiatives: maintain a long term budget strategy to continue holding the line on property taxes; development of a town-wide network of bike lanes, sidewalks, trails, green space, parks, and recreational facilities; implementation of a storm water management system to mitigate runoff in flood prone neighborhoods, improve water quality, and enhance the environment; expand the newly established Sustainability Policy to guide town practices into the future; acquire alternate energy systems for town facilities to lower our carbon footprint, reduce fossil fuel consumption, and reduce costs; promote and incorporate smart growth in business and economic development; and continue providing an accessible, open, transparent, and responsive government.