Save Owasco Now meeting

Auburn City Councilor Terry Cuddy leads a meeting of the Save Owasco Now! lake advocacy group on Monday in discussing the current draft update of Owasco Lake's watershed rules and regulations.

AURELIUS — Members of the Save Owasco Now! lake advocacy group held a work session Monday to prepare for the upcoming public forums regarding the first update to the lake's rules and regulations since 1984.

In light of the harmful algal blooms that have become prominent on Owasco Lake, multiple municipal and governmental agencies have been undertaking an effort to rewrite the rules governing activity in the watershed since 2017.

To be prepared for upcoming public forums on the recently released draft of the updates, available on the Cayuga County website under the Planning and Economic Development department heading, Save Owasco Now! members discussed a number of concerns and suggestions among themselves at the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES.

"I'm raising questions and hoping this sparks more dialogue so we can get the best, most robust rules in the process," Auburn City Councilor and SON founder Terry Cuddy said.

One of the most common suggestions was for additional clarification about where the authority or responsibility for enforcing certain provisions falls.

For example, Cuddy said, while it may be clearly stated in other documents such as an official FAQ, he felt the draft should more explicitly describe how violations are issued and how the remediation process unfolds once one has been issued.

Similarly, Patty Beer suggested the Watershed Inspection and Protection Division — formerly the Watershed Inspection Program, which is responsible for finding and noting violations — have a frequent, publicly available report record for violations similar to restaurant inspections.

"As citizens, we need to know what's going on, and the only way to know that is if the inspections are somehow or other put out to the public to see it," Beer said.

Other concerns included a five-year time frame before certain provisions, such as a 100 feet limit from the lake's high water mark on septic leach field, fully take effect.

Ken Post, an agricultural representative on the steering committee that helped develop the draft rules, said the timing in such rules was made in recognition of the financial burden compliance would place on property owners.

While Cuddy said SON's mission is still to establish a Total Maximum Daily Load, a specific federal regulatory plan for water quality, for Owasco Lake, the rules update offered an opportunity to "tighten up the things" that aren't happening currently, but need to be.

Two public forums on the updated rules are scheduled. The first is scheduled for 6:30 p.m May 15 at the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, while the second is planned for the same time on May 16 at the Moravia High School Auditorium.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin