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Cayuga County and Others to Revisit Lake Ontario Dredging Plan

Posted on April 17, 2017

By Gwendolyn Craig,

Four northern New York counties, including Cayuga, are reinvigorating a 2014 dredging master plan for the southern shore of Lake Ontario.

Steve Lynch presented a draft memorandum of understanding for Cayuga County to take part with Niagara, Orleans and Wayne counties, at the county Legislature’s Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday night. Lynch, the director of planning and economic development, said the idea is for the four counties to form a working group to review the 2014 dredging plan and brainstorm ways to financially tackle the work.

The plan includes all the shoreline from Niagara County to Oswego County, including 19 harbors that collectively generate $94 million in economic activity and support 1,350 jobs. Cayuga County’s harbor on that more than 150 miles of shoreline is Little Sodus Bay. According to the 2014 plan, Little Sodus Bay has 550 boat slips, places where a boat is moored. The bay was also estimated to support 90 jobs and generate about $6.6 million in direct and indirect spending annually.

But if boats can’t get in and out of the bay that economic activity drops.

“What happens is over time they (the harbors) become clogged up, and they become inaccessible,” Lynch said. “Instead of letting everybody dredge their own harbors and figure it out themselves, they’re looking at a way to get all the regional counties together and approach it collectively so that it can be done more efficiently and more economically.”

Following Superstorm Sandy, Little Sodus Bay was partially dredged in 2014 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through federal funds. A full dredge of the one bay was estimated to cost $580,000 but would leap to about $730,000 the following year. It was not clear what the estimates of dredging the full bay would be today.

The southern Lake Ontario shoreline is under the purview of the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but there’s no designated funding to do the work in the master plan. In his proposed resolution, Lynch said the county would provide $5,000 in seed money from its economic development fund to be part of the newly formed group. One representative will be appointed to meet with the other counties. Eventually, Lynch said, more counties could join the group, and there could be discussions about how to bring in private marinas to the table.

Committee members decided to pass the draft resolution rather than leaving it to the Ways and Means Committee. Lynch said the memorandum of understanding could change a bit considering four county Legislatures and four county attorneys will be reviewing it. But, he added, Cayuga County Attorney Fred Westphal said as long as the financial and other obligations of the county didn’t change, it would be acceptable to move the concept of the memorandum forward. The committee agreed and passed it. It will go to Ways and Means, which meets 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, in the Sixth Floor Chambers of the Cayuga County Office Building, 160 Genesee St., Auburn.


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