Cortland County Seeks Funding for Little York Lake Projects – Cortland Voice

Little York Lake. (Photo Source: Kevin L. Smith/Cortland Voice).
The Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is seeking federal funds from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation to acquire dredging and weeds management equipment for Little York Lake preservation projects.
County SWCD manager Amanda Barber presented the district’s $710,000 proposal to the county’s Federal Aid Allocation Citizen’s Advisory Committee late last week, which would cover the costs for equipment to improve weed control, sediment reduction and establish a $100,000 fund for maintenance of said equipment. 
These two management strategies would help slow the eutrophication process at Upper Little York Lake and restore water depth. Eutrophication, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is a process that occurs when the body of water becomes enriched with nutrients, increasing the amount of plant and algae growth. These excessive nutrient deposits can lead to algal blooms and low-oxygen waters that can kill fish and seagrass, and reduce essential fish habitats, according to the NOAA website.

“The focus has been on watershed management, and with the extreme cost of lake management, we felt we needed to continue to address watershed issues such as reducing nutrients and sediment entering the lake,” Barber said, noting that the sediment accumulation can prevent boating access and other recreational uses. 
Barber gave an example of a partnership with the Little York Lake Preservation Society when it comes to algae bloom prevention. The organizations purchased lake bottom blankets to shade out vegetation to prevent it from growing in 2015, Barber said.
In the last three years, the lake bottom blankets, weed harvesting, and other chemical treatments have helped mitigate adverse environmental impacts to the lake, Barber said. The SWCD currently spends $5,000-$15,000 yearly on vegetation control.
“They have been very successful in addressing vegetation growth, but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which is the sediments in the lake,” she said.
A period of evaluation of requests for proposals and quotes would cost the SWCD $35,000, according to Barber. The dredging equipment needed to restore water depth at Upper Little York Lake has an estimated equipment cost of $480,000, Barber added. Weed harvesting equipment would tack on another $95,000 to the total price tag.
While the primary focus of the project will be to help preserve Upper Little York Lake, the SWCD plans to make the proposed equipment available for the preservation of other bodies of water in the county at a cost, Barber said. The Little York Lake Preservation Society will help the SWCD operate the equipment.
In terms of economic development, one of the leading criteria considered by the Federal Aid Allocation Citizen’s Advisory Committee when evaluating proposals, Barber said these management projects would help residents along the lakeshore maintain and improve property values and associated property taxes. 
Recreational access to the lake would also be expanded, bringing in more opportunities to monetize visits to Little York. Just this past year, Barber estimated, 1,000 watercrafts used the lake’s boat launch. 
Democratic legislator and committee member Sandra Price (LD-14) had questions about how the dredging would sit with area residents. 
“Would this dredging be acceptable to the folks living around the lake?,” Price said.
Robin Fisher, the secretary for the Little York Lake Preservation Society, said that previous dredging proposals would have required the lake to be inaccessible to residents for a whole season. Fisher added this proposal would be more tolerable for residents since it can be more sporadic. 
“This is targeted dredging and it can be consistently done to maintain the lake,” Fisher said.
The Little York Lake Preservation Association has also sought to collect taxes from lakeshore residents by establishing a special taxing district. The Cortland Voice’s coverage of that proposal is here.
Eddie Velazquez is a freelance reporter covering Cortland County news exclusively with the Cortland Voice.


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