The development of a Nine Element Watershed Plan for Owasco Lake continues to progress, with the first of many public hearings on the plan to improve water quality scheduled for this coming Monday.
Based off the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's framework, a Nine Element Plan seeks to identify different sources of pollutants, specifically those that contribute to harmful algal blooms on the lake, and ways to reduce them and improve water quality. One way a plan would help do so is by making local municipalities eligible for more grants to improve the watershed.
“To me, it's the gold-standard for maintaining a healthy lake,” said Ed Wagner, Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council Chair and Town of Owasco Supervisor.
The Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council will hold a public meeting Monday at the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES Campus in Auburn to provide an update on the process and obtain public input on issues in the Owasco Lake watershed.
Town of Owasco Supervisor and council member Ed Wagner said Thursday that the council was on track to meet its planned July 2019 date for issuance of a final plan. After the public meeting, the next step is to wait for a contractor to finish developing a computer model that would help evaluate hypothetical problems or solutions.
Wagner said he hoped the model would be finished in the fall. With that completed, the council would look to have the first draft of the plan finished in December, with a second public meeting in the early months of 2019. Following that, the draft plan would be issued in May with another public hearing to follow that, concluding with the release of the final plan in July.
“It's a slow tedious process that needs to be slow and tedious to get public input, to get the science behind it, so when it gets fully developed we'll be able to use it and it will be effective,” Wagner said.
The development of the plan was funded through a state grant for $35,000, along with matching funds from Cayuga County and staff time from the county's Planning and Economic Development Department, which Wagner described as invaluable.
“They are the brains and the workhorse behind the 9E plan. Without them, we wouldn't be in the situation we're in,” Wagner said.
Compared to other 9E plans, Wagner said Owasco was getting “a hell of a tool” for a fraction of what other communities had paid to develop theirs. In addition to the work of county staff, Wagner said that was due largely to an existing foundation of research and other work groups like the management council and others had already been doing for years.