OONA Hosts New York State DEC Representatives at Monthly Meeting
On Monday, May 14th, the OONA held a membership meeting at Point Breeze in Carlton. Following its regular business meeting, OONA members, nonmembers from Point Breeze and surrounding communities, and local/state representatives from the towns of Carlton and Yates, and Orleans County, were invited to join in a presentation by representatives from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). Nearly 100 people were on hand to hear background information on, and the status of, many initiatives that have significant impact on the Lake Ontario shoreline, its tributaries and its residents (South Shore “Riparians“).In attendance were Jim Ward representing State Senator George D. Maziarz, Eileen Banker representing Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, for the Town of Carlton were Supervisor Gayle Ashbery, and Board Member Jim Shoemaker; and representing the Town of Yates were Supervisor John Belson and Council Member Stephen Freeman.
The special guest speakers from NYSDEC were: Sue McCormick, Chief, Coastal Erosion Management Section, NYSDEC Central Office in Albany, along with her assistant, Matt Chlebus; Raymond Yacuzzo, an active boater from the Oak Orchard Yacht Club, and Special Assistant to the Commissioner, NYSDEC Region 8 Office in Avon; and Donald Zelazny, Great Lakes Program Coordinator, NYSDEC Region 9 Office in Buffalo.
Those in attendance learned more about the St. Lawrence Seaway International Joint Commission’s (IJC) latest proposals to regulate Lake Ontario water levels. They learned the IJC is conducting public hearings locally to better inform residents and to receive vital input to help lead to the best informed decision on lake level management, scheduled to be made by the end of 2012. Donald Zelazny, DEC Buffalo, who has remained close to the IJC’s process over the last 10 years, encouraged all to attend at least one of these hearings, either in Olcott at the Fire Company, 7PM on Tuesday, June 5th, in Hilton at Quest Elementary School, 7PM on Wednesday, June 6th, or in Williamson at Williamson High School Auditorium, 7PM on Thursday, June 7th.
They also learned that regardless of the outcome of the IJC’s proposal, scientists predict Lake Ontario to continue to be on the rise, with highs and lows along the way based on “mother nature” and “climate change”. This generated very interesting discussion on shoreline protection from erosion, facilitated by Sue McCormick, DEC Albany. She gave an overview of the types of erosion protection, the permitting process, and the use of reputable, experienced engineers and construction companies for design and installation of adequate shoreline protection, with a 30-year life. Sue reminded all that the permitting process itself will take at least 6 months! She announced that NYSDEC has contracted to have an extensive survey made of shoreline protection along Lake Ontario’s South Shore, which will commence within the next few months. Property owners should receive notification of this process in the near future.
Another vital aspect of our lake and waterways is the navigability of our rivers, the vital links to Lake Ontario for recreational and commercial use. Raymond Yacuzzo, NYSDEC Avon, talked about the misuse of Federal funds over the years, funds designated for harbor and waterway maintenance, resulting in most rivers of the Great Lakes, including Lake Ontario, to not be properly dredged. Currently, there are Congressional committees working to finalize legislation that recognizes the need to include small harbors like Oak Orchard, Olcott, and Wilson under the same maintenance plan as larger commercial harbors, and force harbor tax revenues to be expended properly on dredging plans and other maintenance activities to keep our waterways navigable. All were encouraged to communicate with their state and federal representatives to solicit their support for enactment of the legislation necessary to ensure our rivers continue to thrive. Ray noted that the dredging issue could become even more serious if IJC proposals are enacted that will create higher high-water levels, and lower low-water levels.
The OONA was pleased by the large turnout of concerned citizens and was very appreciative to the representatives from NYSDEC for their information and experience. For more information on the St. Lawrence Seaway Joint International Commission, go to http://www.ijc.org/loslr/en/background/. For more information on OONA as well as draft letters to representatives regarding harbor maintenance, and contacts for NYSDEC on lake shore issues, go to http://www.oakorchard.org/lake-river-issues/nysdec-contact-info
Submitted by Frank Panczyszyn