County Backs Goose Creek Streambank Stabilization

MAYVILLE – Three resolutions and a brief report on Chautauqua Lake were the main focus areas of Wednesday night’s meeting of the County Legislature.

With 20 resolutions on the agenda, legislators moved swiftly through the meeting as most topics were covered by committees throughout last week.

One of the most discussed resolutions of the evening involved using occupancy tax funds for a streambank stabilization project on Goose Creek in Ashville, for which $50,000 was designated.

With the help of a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service in the amount of $298,949 and several local contributors making up the remainder of the $438,120 project, 3,800 feet of streambank will be stabilized.

“This program is one of many going on in our county right now to restore and improve our waterways in Chautauqua County,” said George Borrello, R-Irving. “This will dramatically reduce the amounts of contaminants going into the lake, as Goose Creek was identified in a 2012 study as a major source of silt and nutrients in Chautauqua Lake.”

Lisa Vanstrom, R-West Ellicott, agreed with Borrello and thanked those who contributed to match the federal funding and worked to solidify the project.

Vanstrom thanked the county Soil and Water Conservation District, especially Rob Halbohm of the Natural Resource Conservation Service; the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, which donated $10,000; the Sheldon Foundation, which donated $80,000; and the entire County Legislature for their support.

Moving forward, a resolution authorizing $50,000 of 2 percent lakes and waterways reserve funding was discussed in support of the formation of the Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance, a new nonprofit group aimed at prioritizing lake projects.

“When this proposal was first mentioned, it was indicated there would be much greater support from the private sector,” said Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan. “I don’t have a problem with the county providing money to get this project started, but I would encourage those involved to continue to seek private funding for this project and also, I’d like to see a financial commitment from the municipalities and stakeholders involved in this project.”

There was no further discussion on the topic, and $50,000 was unanimously designated toward the alliance.

The third most discussed resolution was a county match of $2.6 million in order to receive Intergovernmental Transfer funds, which are federally provided for the County Home.

The county must provide a local share contribution separate and apart from County Home operating revenues in order to qualify for the IGT funds, the amount of $2.6 million for fiscal year 2013-14 will be received after the sale of the County Home is closed.

IGT funds are not recurring and are typically announced well before they are released, which is why the $2.6 million is retroactive. Another round of IGT funding may be available for fiscal year 2014-15, but has yet to be announced.

“I’ll be voting in favor of this resolution because it will help to reduce our tax levy,” Niebel said. “However, this is just a short-term fix. In the long-term, we have to find ways to reduce the expenses associated with county government.”

The resolution was unanimously approved.

Lastly, Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, said legislators received a status report about Total Maximum Daily Load limits for phosphorus in Chautauqua Lake prepared by the Phosphorus Monitoring Committee of the Chautauqua County Water Quality Task Force.

“There is good news in this report and then there is opportunity in this report,” Chagnon said, adding that progress had been made in phosphorus management strategies in terms of managing publicly owned wastewater treatment plants and the education of property owners in proper maintenance of septic systems and lawn care.

“However, there has been limited progress made on some of the strategies, such as surveying and testing of septic systems,” he said. “There has been no action in a couple of strategies such as septic system protection and maintenance programs and the report has no information in regards to road and ditch maintenance and management practices for roadway de-icing.”

In conclusion, Chagnon said he wanted to convene a meeting of the legislature’s environmental subcommittee to review the report in detail and bring the findings back to next month’s full meeting of the County Legislature.

Absent legislators included Mark Tarbrake, R-Jamestown; Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg; and PJ Wendel, R-Lakewood.