The Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District will decide this month if it will keep the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program for a while longer, after efforts to transfer its ownership have been delayed.
The Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council, a nonprofit corporation created in 2010 by the city of Auburn, town of Owasco and Cayuga County, was meant to oversee the inspection program. It was not administratively able to do so at its inception, so the district has been overseeing it in the interim.
In August, the council decided it was ready to run the inspection program, and made plans for a Jan. 1 transfer. The watershed council and the Owasco Town Board voted to do that, but the Auburn City Council has delayed voting, making the intended deadline unlikely.
Ed Wagner, chair of the watershed council, sent a letter to the district's Chairman Ray Lockwood dated Nov. 21, "asking to postpone the transfer of the Program to a date, at minimum, three months after all approvals from the necessary parties are obtained."
"We appreciate how unsettling the delay in the transfer may be for the District and your employees who work on the Watershed Inspection Program and we apologize for any hardship that this has created," Wagner wrote.
Doug Kierst, executive director of the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District, said he had received the letter and would be sharing it at the district's board meeting at 10 a.m. on Dec. 13.
City Manager Jeff Dygert said there was some language in the watershed council's bylaws that needed clarification. For example, the bylaws refer to "directors" and "members," he said, and there's ambiguity as to what their roles and responsibilities are. The city would like to make it a "stronger document," he said.
Dygert also hopes that all the involved parties can sit down and discuss logistics of a transfer. After that meeting, the plan is to hold a public meeting and discussion, whether at city council or elsewhere, about the change.
City Councilor Jimmy Giannettino Jr. said the city understands and supports the intent of the transfer.
"I understand a lot of work has been put in, and I respect that, and I don't want to jeopardize that," he said. "I just want to make sure we're all comfortable moving forward."
Dygert said he is "fairly confident" the district will work with everyone to keep the program moving ahead.
"If they decide on the 13th that's not the course they're going to take, we'll have to regroup relatively quickly and figure out how to handle that," he said. "I think everybody is just trying to become more educated, and make sure the choice that gets made is appropriate. ... Everybody feels a great deal of responsibility for what's going on in the watershed."