SENECA FALLS — In his 2018 State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $65 million state investment to combat harmful algal blooms in Cayuga Lake and 17 other water bodies statewide.
Cayuga Lake, which borders Seneca County, is included in a central group of lakes that would be eligible for funds to combat the HABs that were prevalent in 2017. The others are Owasco Lake in Cayuga County and Skaneateles Lake in Onondaga County.
Two other of the 11 Finger Lakes, Conesus Lake and Honeoye Lake, are in the western group, along with Chautauqua Lake.
The governor’s proposal would be a four-point initiative to aggressively combat HABs that threaten the recreational use of lakes that are important to upstate tourism, as well as sources of drinking water.
The plan calls for the state’s Water Quality Rapid Response Team, co-chaired by state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, to convene four regional summits to bring together national experts with steering committees and local shareholders established for each lake. They will develop action plans to identify factors contributing to HABs. The state will provide $500,000 per lake to develop immediate action plans to reduce pollution that sparks algal blooms.
The state then would provide nearly $60 million in grant funding to implement the action plans, including new monitoring and treatment technologies.
The idea is to bring together leading researchers from across the nation, including experts from Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Vermont, as well as the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Stony Brook Center for Clean Water Technology and the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, to share best practices and develop innovative solutions that can be replicated in water bodies across the state.
HABs, whose occurrence has risen in recent years, has been linked to phosphorus and other nutrient inputs, exacerbated by heavy rain events and warming waters related to climate change, according to the governor’s office.
In 2017, more than 100 beaches were closed for at least part of the summer due to HABs. Skaneateles Lake, the source of unfiltered drinking water for the city of Syracuse and several other communities, was threatened by algal blooms for the first time.
Cayuga Lake is the source of drinking water for the city of Ithaca, the villages of Aurora and Union Springs, and the town of Seneca Falls.
The Cuomo proposal must be incorporated into the 2018-19 state budget for it to move forward. The budget is due April 1.