GENEVA — With Seneca Lake visible in the background, State Sen. Pam Helming and Assemblyman Bob Oaks Thursday urged local governments to apply for grant money in the new state budget for water protection projects.
“The money is in the budget. Please apply for it,” said Helming, R-54 of Canandaigua.
“Water is a precious resource and the effort to protect drinking water must begin at its source,” she said, speaking at the Finger Lakes Institute on South Main Street.
“I moved here in the 1980s and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the area. Every day, I’m awed by the beauty of the lakes. It’s our drinking water and an economic driver. Agriculture and tourism depend on it,” Helming said.
She said the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 includes $2.5 billion to provide for the costs of clean water projects. That includes water system infrastructure repairs and replacement, inter-municipal water infrastructure, green infrastructure and a septic system rebate program.
It also includes $110 million for the protection of source water, such as Seneca, Cayuga and Canandaigua Lakes.
“It’s a priority goal of mine to protect our water resources,” she said.
Helming, who succeeded State Sen. Mike Nozzolio in January, said the first hurdle was getting the money in the budget. The second hurdle “is to make sure we get money to the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario.”
“We need your help. I urge you to start now in learning about these grants and to apply for this money,” Helming said, adding that it will be given out on a competitive grant basis. “It is painfully obvious every time a water main breaks or a municipality spends their limited funds to dig up and replace aging pipes.”
“Yet as important as it is to solve these problems, infrastructure improvements alone are limited in their effectiveness for addressing issues that arise at the earliest stage for the water cycle,’’ said Oaks, R-130 of Macedon.
The $110 million can be used to protect lakes and watersheds from pollution and provide buffer areas to protect against pollutants and provide natural filtration for water.
“It’s very important to protect the freshwater resources in the state. This program also provides an opportunity for municipalities to join together to do projects, as encouraged by the governor,” Oaks said.
Finger Lakes Institute President Lisa Cleckner said Seneca Lake and other lakes are threatened by harmful algae blooms, hydrilla, nutrients and toxins that can get into drinking water.
Present for the announcement were Waterloo Village Administrator Don Northrup and village Water Treatment Plant Operator Jim Bromka.
Northrup said the village has a project in the works pending before the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation. He asked Helming and Oaks to support their application.
Northrup said it is a $7 million to $8 million project to install a raw water treatment system and filter on the intake pipe in Seneca Lake where the village gets its water.
The project also includes an additional ultra violent peroxide system as part of the water treatment process to improve water quality and a new water storage tower on the north end of Virginia Street to replace the aging tower on Reed Street.
“We provide water for a large part of Seneca County and will be providing water for del Lago and a new district around Route 14,” Bromka said. “We need to be able to provide high-quality water with uninterrupted service.”
County Supervisor Paul Kronenwetter, R-Seneca Falls, said Seneca County is looking at combining three wastewater treatment plants into one, upgraded plant at Willard to serve the south end of the county, including the state’s Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus.
“I would hope you could support that project when we look for funding,” he said.
“Please contact my office if you need help in applying,” Helming said.