AUBURN — The Auburn City Council is supporting a petition to reclassify every stream within the Owasco Lake Watershed.
The council voted last week to support the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council's effort to reclassify all of the watershed streams. Many of the streams that flow into the lake are classified under class C, indicating, "the body of water only supports fisheries and is only suitable for non-contact activities," the city council's resolution said.
The resolution said the watershed council, an intermunicipal lake protection organization, will be requesting reclassification promotions throughout the watershed to class A, meaning "a sustaining source of drinking water."
Streams and watercourses leading into the lake with A classifications, referred to as "protected streams," the resolution said, receive the stream protection provisions of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Protection of Waters regulations.
Before he voted for the resolution, Councilor Jimmy Giannettino asked about the approval process. Director of Municipal Utilities Seth Jensen said he understands the reclassification process would not be quick. He noted the majority of the streams in the Skaneateles Lake watershed have A classifications.
"We're trying to gather up as much local support as possible to try and really push the state (Department of Environmental Conservation) in a direction to really look at reclassifying our streams in the Owasco Lake watershed", he said. "We're not looking for anything that hasn't been done before."
Adam Effler, the watershed management council's executive director, said Thursday that the entity is planning on sending out the petition to the DEC and added that the organization is speaking with the DEC about other avenues that may expedite the process beyond the petition in order to look at all of the possible options.
Effler said he has been told that the process of DEC officials looking to determine if the streams warrant class A designations and approving those classifications can take roughly five to 10 years. If all of the Owasco streams were given class A designations, Effler said, anyone who wanted to undertake projects related to the streams would have to get a permit and follow guidelines that would reduce the likelihood of issues such as erosion or harming materials getting into the lake. While he said he doesn't have an issue with projects related to the streams, he said it's important for them to be done in ways that would not harm the watershed.
Ray Lockwood, president of the board of directors for the Cayuga County Farm Bureau, said he currently doesn't feel the reclassification is the way to go. Lockwood said he feels the permitting process is lengthy and expensive and the window of time given for a project if someone gets the permit is not very long.
"It may be more counterproductive than productive," Lockwood said.
Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.
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