Positive Signs In Chautauqua Lake Sewer Project

There were some encouraging developments recently relative to building sewers around Chautauqua Lake, the first being that no opposing petitions were filed to the expansion of the sewer district up the west side of the lake to Stow. That means that the South/Center Sewer District (South District) can begin making plans to extend sewers from the BOCES School in Ashville to Stow.

As to financing that expansion, the news was mixed. The New York state DEC did approve a $5 million grant for the project, but an expected $3 million grant from the state’s Economic Development Corporation (ESDC) was not approved. The ESDC action was based upon Western New York not being deemed a “top performing” region of the state. And why did that happen? No one knows for sure. There is speculation it could be related to “backlash” from other regions of the State over what is called the “Buffalo Billion” investment focused largely on a new $750 million solar panel factory not yet fully operational on the Buffalo River.

Also, on the negative side, despite a lot of talk about “infrastructure” there has still been no federal action in Washington to appropriate money for sewers. Thus, it looks like we will have to move ahead with only state and local money available. I hope that the South District does begin the process of extending the sewer up the west side of the Lake while it continues to seek more state and federal aid to lower the local cost. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but someone had to begin its construction. The $5 million grant should be the impetus for the beginning of sewer construction up the lake.

The financial news for the northern basin of the lake was better. Earlier in the year, state grants were announced to improve the North District treatment plant in Mayville and dismantle the inadequate plant at Chautauqua Lake Estates (CLE.) In this last “go-around” of state funding the DEC granted another $1 million to the Town of Chautauqua which pretty much completes the funding to decommission the plant at CLE and connect that outflow to the newly-improved treatment plant in Mayville. This will mean a substantial reduction in phosphorous outflows into the northern basin of the lake.

I have been told that the County Executive and his staff are diligently pursuing all possible resources to get more money to extend sewage collection in the South District. In the meantime, let’s hope that the $ 5 million grant to the South District is enough to get things started. Public works projects that no one sees (like underground sewer and water lines) are the most difficult to get funded. Yet, their purpose, to clean up lakes and provide clean water, are among the most needed public priorities.

So, if you see one of your elected officials or members of the Sewer Board on the street — thank them for what they have done. We are moving in the right direction! But, also encourage them to keep doing more. Phosphorous discharges into Chautauqua Lake won’t be resolved until all septic systems discharging into the lake are replaced by public sewers which will transmit the effluent to proper treatment plants where the phosphorus can be removed.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.