County seeks funding for Chautauqua Lake projects

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County has been working hard to find New York state funding for Chautauqua Lake projects.

Representative from Chautauqua County traveled to Albany on May 2 to meet with state Sen. Catharine Young, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell and officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC).

The meeting focused on water quality and wastewater projects surrounding Chautauqua Lake.

Tom Walsh, director of the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer Districts, said, “Elevated phosphorous concentrations are the root-causes of the algae and aquatic vegetation issues that are impacting the lake. As a result, Chautauqua Lake has a state and federal regulatory mandate or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to reduce phosphorous concentrations.

“Expanding municipal wastewater collection is the most cost-effective way to achieve this regulatory mandate.”

Walsh added, “The initiative to expand municipal sewer collection along the south side of Chautauqua is essentially ‘shovel ready;’ all that remains is a funding plan that will deliver a project that is affordable to residents. We have a solid commitment from the EFC for financing, but we need grant funding to deliver the projects under the New York state Comptroller’s threshold for affordability before we can finalize our sewer district extension.”

Chautauqua County Legislator Pierre Chagnon has been a long-time advocate for wastewater infrastructure around Chautauqua Lake. Chagnon is a member of the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer Districts Board of Directors and was its chairman during the early 1980s when the districts’ wastewater treatment plant was completed and much of the wastewater infrastructure was constructed around the south basin of Chautauqua Lake.

“It was a massive undertaking then, but we saw significant improvements in the lake’s water quality as a result,” said Chagnon. “We have made significant progress, but we still have much to do.”

Chagnon added, “We have faithfully followed New York state’s project development process through extensive planning and by preparing the Integrated Sewage Management Plan (ISMP) for Chautauqua Lake, which analyzed the capacity of Chautauqua Lake’s existing wastewater infrastructure and made specific recommendations to achieve compliance with the TMDL. The ISMP also examined the implications of the many failing or inadequate privately-owned septic systems that are in close proximity to the lakeshore. It was unsettling to realize that these septic systems are not only impacting water quality in the lake, but may also be degrading the groundwater that many residents rely on as a source of drinking water. We used the recommendations of the ISMP to support Preliminary Engineering Reports which spoke to our environmental, economic and public health concerns and defined solutions and their probable costs. We then submitted the reports to the EFC to be considered for New York state financing. We were pleased to learn that our projects were approved and that we were eligible for 0 percent financing. Unfortunately, these projects are unaffordable unless grant funding can be obtained. We are thankful to Sen. Young and Assemblyman Goodell for their efforts to find a solution for this dilemma.”

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan said these wastewater projects are the right thing to do for Chautauqua Lake and Chautauqua County.

“These wastewater projects will have a beneficial impact on the environment, human health and the economy of Chautauqua County,” said Horrigan. “We are grateful for Sen. Cathy Young and Assemblymen Andy Goodell for bringing the DEC and the EFC to the table so we could advocate for funding for our projects. The timing of this meeting was also important because Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo’s Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) program opened on May 1. We will be submitting grant applications for these and other important Chautauqua County projects through the CFA program, but you cannot underestimate the value of having the support of our elected officials and meeting face to face with New York state’s funding agencies so they have a clear understanding of our needs.”

For more information about Chautauqua County’s efforts to fund its projects, contact Chautauqua County Watershed Coordinator Dave McCoy at 661-8915.


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