LAKEWOOD - With a wheelbarrow full of weeds and Chautauqua Lake behind them, two state lawmakers announced Thursday that they have secured another $50,000 for weed harvesting.
The money, which matches state funding earlier this year, will be used by the Chautauqua Lake Association to get a third harvesting machine on the lake.
"We have a load of weeds right in front of us," said state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, who was joined by Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, three county legislators and Chris Yates, CLA president.
State Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell announced that they secured another $50,000 grant to help clean up Chautauqua Lake. Also in attendance were (left to right behind Senator Young and Assemblyman Goodell): Chautauqua Lake Association President Chris Yates, Chautauqua County Legislator P.J. Wendel, Chautauqua County Legislator Fred Croscut, Chautauqua County Legislator Vince Horrigan, and Chautauqua Lake Association General Manager Paul Swanson.
"There's a lot more work that needs to be done," Young continued. "So I'm very pleased to announce today that Assemblyman Goodell and I secured another $50,000 from New York state to go toward cleanup of Chautauqua Lake.
"We felt this was a very emergent situation that needed to be addressed."
Goodell it was it important to protect the lake, noting the amount of revenue it brings in to the county through tourism.
"The funding that we are announcing today ... doubles the state funding that has initially been provided to the Lake Association," Goodell said. "I'm also happy to see the county legislators here today because it's the county legislators who also have stepped up to the plate in a big way at a time when it's extremely difficult in the county in terms of their budget."
Goodell said visitors to the county spent about $171 million last year, and noted that the lake is a major source of tourism for the local economy.
The funding, which according to Young and Goodell came from "numerous sources" within the state budget, comes a week after the County Legislature OK'd a $80,000 appropriation to the CLA. The lake association must match $20,000 to receive the funding.
The local share payment will come from the county's fund balance ($50,000) and a portion of the county's 2 percent occupancy tax ($30,000), the latter of which will deplete the emergency fund.
Young said that securing the state funds was not an easy task, especially since the state had grappled this year with a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall due the national economy that had to be resolved.
"Assemblyman Goodell and I were resolute, and went into battle during the budget negotiations to have Chautauqua Lake put in the budget as a $50,000 line item. Out of the more than 3,300 lakes in New York state, Chautauqua Lake is the only one specifically included in the budget, but we feel it is appropriate since the state owns the lake bottom," she said.
For decades, Chautauqua Lake received an annual $50,000 member item grant through the state Senate that was started by the late Senator Jess Present. It was continued through the efforts of Senator Patricia McGee, and by Senator Young after she was elected to the Senate in 2005.
"Unfortunately, the support for Chautauqua Lake was eliminated in 2009 and 2010 after Democrats who are controlled by New York City seized power in the state Senate. They diverted state resources that traditionally went upstate to downstate, which had devastating consequences, not only for the lake, but across the board. Since we regained the Senate Majority in 2011, we have been working hard to fix the damage that was done, and we are making great progress," Young said.
Young said that she and Goodell not only have boosted state funding, but they have worked to carry on a steady revenue source that is designated to support all of the county's waterways.
Chautauqua County's occupancy tax was authorized by the state Legislature in 2003 at three percent to enhance the county's tourism. In 2007, the state allowed it to be increased to five percent, with the 2 percent expressly being earmarked for improving the county's waterways. The increased percentage brings in about $500,000 to the county annually. The occupancy tax was renewed in 2011 through the efforts of Senator Young and Assemblyman Goodell.
The lawmakers also worked with the county to establish a Welfare to Work program, with welfare recipients providing manpower to clean up lake weeds. Recently, one of the participants was hired as a regular employee by the CLA, putting that individual into the workforce and off public assistance, Young said.
"I commend everyone, including the county, private donors and volunteers, and the CLA for pulling together on this issue. We have to work together to get positive results, and we are on both counts," she said.
According to Yates, a third harvesting machine could be on the water by next week, although he said personnel will need to be secured.
"We look forward to getting that equipment out there to get to work," he said.