I felt compelled to respond after having read the Oct. 24 The Citizen article “Ag chief touts soil, water" and having received comments from constituents concerned with an obvious lack of accurate and timely knowledge of the ongoing efforts relative to the protection and management of the Owasco Watershed, the condition of the lake itself and ultimately the quality of drinking water being provided to those dependent on municipal sources.
When considering the importance and scope of the tasks above, responsibilities can't be overstated. With this perspective, it is obvious that a group of individuals including several with responsible elected positions, having the necessary contacts, authority to effectuate regulations, management experience and, at times, funding are necessary to accomplish the goals.
To date, with the committee having been in effect three months, two public hearings and two stakeholder meetings have already been conducted providing approximately 250 non-committee members an opportunity to provide input.
Having the broad base of individual experiences, education, perspectives, responsibilities, contacts, personal motivations and opinions, the current Steering Committee provides a significant nucleus with the ability to draw on any additional special technical expertise not already internally available. Limiting this ability, by having it managed by members of a single organization, seems to be the wrong direction in comparison to the eight member steering committee currently in place, many of which are elected officials with direct responsibility to their constituents, three members are active Cayuga County farmers. It's my opinion that the Soil and Water Conservation District organization neither has the same resources of the committee as mentioned or the staff to address the issues at hand, by themselves.
I recognize and appreciate the work that our local Soil and Water Conservation District is able to provide to this community and welcome any additional support they could provide, through the Agricultural Environmental Management Program and others. The committee has welcomed the support of any and all other individuals and groups, and will continue to do so.
The focus should be on attaining the ultimate goals and not limiting the resources available for personal, professional or political reasons. Closer to home (in Owasco), with regard to efforts related to protecting the lake, and specifically with regard to the issue of septic systems, the Owasco Town Council re-activated a 1998 program to extend the public sewer system to include 170 old septic systems by the completion of a project known as Sewer District #3. Desiring to have as large an impact as possible, the town of Niles was invited to participate which it ultimately did, removing another 12. Though it turned out to be a monumental task to introduce this upgrade, the team did so with successful completion in 2017, following a three-year effort.
In addition to the above, the Town of Owasco has recently replaced its potable water tank and is in the process of replacing antiquated water supply lines further insuring the quality of drinking water for those served by the system.
In summation, l strongly recommend the current Steering Committee continue its efforts with regard to improving and protecting the Owasco watershed, the lake itself and the providing of safe drinking water. The focus should be on supporting the committee and its efforts in any way individuals or groups feel they can be of help as "No one of us is as smart as all of us."
Lastly, as a result of the politically sensitive nature of about any subject, (especially relative to safe drinking water) it is more important than ever to be timely and accurate in statements made during presentations and being careful to not just reiterate talking points.
It's important to keep in mind time is not on our side to reaching successful attainment of our goals with regard to the health of Owasco Lake and all the related effects it has on our lives.