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Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council hoping more towns provide funds
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ENVIRONMENT

Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council hoping more towns provide funds

AUBURN — The Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council is planning to ask more municipalities within the watershed to provide funding as it looks to advance the mission of protecting Cayuga County's largest drinking water source.

Adam Effler, the watershed council's executive director, and Kaitlyn Shanahan, deputy watershed inspector for the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Division, gave a presentation on the state of the intermunicipal lake protection organization to the Auburn City Council last week.

Effler said the watershed council is requesting all 10 municipalities within the watershed contribute so the organization can supplement the $234,500 currently committed by four local governments.

The city of Auburn has promised $200,000, while the town of Owasco has committed $25,000. As the two municipalities that actually draw and filter public drinking water from the lake, those two municipalities have always funded the watershed council. Along with Cayuga County, Owasco and Auburn were the founding members of the watershed council, which recently took official stewardship of the lake's inspection program.

The 2020 commitment from Owasco is up by $5,000, and Auburn contribution is a $25,000 increase.

For the coming year, the town of Scipio is set to give the full requested amount of $2,500 (up by $1,000) while Fleming has committed $7,000 out of $10,000 requested by the watershed council. Fleming's contribution is up by $2,000.

But the watershed council's hope is for more contributors.

The watershed council has requested $2,000 each from six other municipalities that are part of watershed, including Niles, Locke, Summerhill and both the town and village Moravia in Cayuga County and the Tompkins County village of Groton.

The watershed council is also hoping to fill board member vacancies with people representing the towns of Genoa, Groton, Sennett, Sempronius and Venice.

Owasco Town Supervisor Ed Wagner was set to advocate for funding on the council's behalf at town of Niles board meeting on Nov. 14, Effler said. The council's proposed 2020 budget is $234,500, up $33,000 from the current year budget as it expands inspection and education efforts.

The funding sought from more municipalities is not the only financial source the watershed council is eyeing. 

"We're requesting all of the municipalities demonstrate their support for our initiatives through a contribution on some level but the council will also write grants for specific projects," Effler said.

Despite the funding commitments in hand, the watershed council has projected a 2020 net loss of $18,728, Effler continued, noting projected losses aren't uncommon for organizations going through rapid growth and the shortfall will be covered through reserve funds/fund balance. The council's current fund balance is $184,000. He said the council is now registered with Grants Gateway, the state's "online grant application and contract management system," according to its website. He said the council is well-positioned for grant funding.

The council's long-term goals include acquiring land for "preserving those natural resources for their important functions," bringing in more staff and working with highway departments on self-sustained sediment and erosion control measures.

Effler and Shanahan, who was hired a month and a half ago, expressed optimism for the future.

"I'm really excited and grateful for this opportunity to be protecting the lake through this position," Shanahan said.

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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