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Collaboration emphasized at Owasco Lake water quality presentation
WEDNESDAY MORNING ROUNDTABLE

Collaboration emphasized at Owasco Lake water quality presentation

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AUBURN — The importance of collaboration was emphasized when officials talked about Owasco Lake's water quality 

The discussion was held at the Wednesday Morning Roundtable, a monthly civic forum in Auburn. Adam Effler, executive director for the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council, said the council's mission is "to coordinate actions for protecting and restoring the health of the lake and its watershed to ensure that the lake will serve as a source of public drinking water, a recreational asset, an economic driver and important natural resource ... now and for future generations."

Effler said the council's goals include land acquisition, limiting nutrients such as phosphorus from getting into the lake, and getting more municipalities to contribute funds to the council. The city of Auburn and the town of Owasco are among the entities that have committed funds.

Effler said after the presentation that group members have contacted other municipalities about contributing. While there may be a perception that those municipalities don't have "the same stake," he said, he doesn't think that's true.

"They are involved, they certainly have a stake, and I think that we would need to do is facilitate an environment where it's easier for them to participate and feel like they have a voice," he said.

Effler talked about what he wanted people to take away from the event.

"It's important for everyone to feel like they can contribute something and that we should all consider what our future would like if we all took some action," he said. "If every one of us took some action, how impressive could that be? 

Kaitlyn Shanahan, deputy watershed inspector for the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection and Protection Division, which reports to the council, said that the group's mission is to protect water quality "by looking at what's going on on the land and looking at what the water flowing across the land is bringing into the lake." 

This year, Shanahan said, the division plans to put a lot of focus on giving "positive accolades" to those who are voluntarily enacting good practices that protect water quality.

"You tell them they're doing a good job, it makes them want to do a good job. It makes other people around them want to fit in," she said. "We very much live in an area where people do care about the lake and are looking to protect it." 

Shanahan also talked about efforts such as the annual shoreline walk held in the fall, where people walked the entire perimeter of the lake, picking up over 200 gallons of trash along the shoreline in the process.

Doug Selby, adviser to the Cayuga County Water and Sewer Authority, talked about a "master plan" for country water and sewer efficiency that the organization is working on.

"We wanted to take a fresh look at how we approach water supply and sewer treatment in Cayuga County," he said. "It's not really new thinking, but it's more looking at a rational plan that's developed to provide the cost effective approach to serving customers."  

Selby talked about the importance of having a resilient system that could recover quickly or not be damaged at all when something happens. Benefits of the project would be reliability for all existing customers, service to new customers and wholesale purchase opportunities to municipalities.

The project is set to have an estimated $39 million budget, he said. 

"It's expensive, but you've got to consider $39 million relative to critical infrastructure that can provide public safety, public health, economic vitality and prosperity into the future, and you're making an investment for 50, 60, 70 years in the future of Cayuga County." 

He said the authority wants to approach the project collaboratively and is looking to minimize operational costs through means such as "coordinated purchasing of chemicals and materials." Selby said the authority believes it can get 25% or more of the project funded through grants.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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