OSWEGO, NY â€“ Water chestnuts could resurface at next monthâ€™s Oswego County Legislature meeting.
The legislatureâ€™s Economic Development and Planning Committee voted 6-1 earlier this year to hire a company to cut and chemically treat 213 acres of the Oswego River that is infested by water chestnuts. The cost would be $47,766.
Legislator Doug Malone cast the nay vote.
The resolution died on the floor of the legislature.
To bring it back through committee to the full legislature, a person in the opposition must move to revisit the matter, in this case, Malone.
He described the problem as a â€œNortheast issueâ€ and said the state and federal government should take care of the problem.
At Tuesdayâ€™s committee meeting, several county residents urged the legislators to reconsider approving the funding â€“ before the problem gets worse. Malone didn’t attend the meeting.
Minetto resident Richard Drosse, speaking as a member of the Oswego County Environmental Management Council and of the County Tourism Advisory Council, told the committee that the problem, left untreated, will cause great environmental and economic problems for the county.
â€œLast year, there was no money from the state to address the problem. This year, I doubt very much there is going to be any money coming from the state,â€ he said. â€œPeople help people that help themselves. This is a problem that goes from the homeowners right up through the state and federal government. Itâ€™s our river.â€
They were looking for a tour boat to come in and be a part of this yearâ€™s â€œMagic in Minettoâ€ festivities, he noted. The proliferation of water chestnuts might make that impossible, he added.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to take some action. (The county) has to help ourselves, we need to be pro-active,â€ Drosse said. â€œIf they are grants available, funding through other means we need to find it.â€
Decomposition of the large volume of water chestnuts may also contribute to lower levels of dissolved oxygen in shallower waters, he said, adding that low levels of oxygen adversely affect the natural inhabitants of these waters, creating additional problems.
It disrupts the native plants, fish reproduction can be hindered, and the use of boats becomes impossible.
â€œPeople arenâ€™t going to come and fish or boat on the river if they canâ€™t get through,â€ Drosse said. â€œIf the state isnâ€™t going to contribute money, we need to help ourselves.â€
One riverfront property owner, Larry Hansen of Granby, who lives near Ox Creek, said for â€œthree years running I have seen depreciation in my property value and increase in my taxes.â€
He said he hasnâ€™t seen anything being done to get rid of the water chestnuts.
Hansen said his ability to enjoy his property â€œhas really gone downhill.â€
Mike Kerker, second vice chair of the EMC, spoke as a county resident and a biologist.
He compared the problem to a biological system.
â€œIf we had a virus or bacteria that was coming into our bodies or our childrenâ€™s, Iâ€™m not sure we would make the decision to letâ€™s see whether somebody else is going to pay for the medical treatment before we went and got that treatment,â€ he told the committee. â€œThatâ€™s exactly what weâ€™re looking at in our river system.â€
Beverly Downs of Fulton also lives along the river.
â€œWhere I am last year started to get some chestnuts. It was because they were up by Ox Creek, chopping off the tops and letting the rest float down the river,â€ she said. â€œI would like to make sure that when we do do something that we harvest it and take the stuff out and away, not just cut it and leave it and let it go with the flow of the water.â€
â€œLast year we put this in the budget with the anticipation that if we had a problem weâ€™d use it and hopefully the grants would come in and it would be replenished,â€ committee chair Morris Sorbello noted. â€œThat hasnâ€™t happened.â€
â€œI think that if we miss this opportunity, if we donâ€™t start doing something this year, then weâ€™re going to lose total control over this thing,â€ cautioned Legislator Shawn Doyle of Pulaski. â€œWeâ€™re going to have to do something. In a few years, this is going to be blocking more crucial areas.â€
Itâ€™s going to affect tourism, he said, adding that if he was a property owner along the riverfront, he would be forming an organization to start grieving their assessments collectively.
He would like to see the resolution brought back to the full legislature.
Fulton Legislator Louella LeClair also supported bringing the matter back on the floor.
â€œWe could be the shinning star of the state if we showed the rest of the counties along the canal system that weâ€™re not going to sit around and wait for Washington or Albany before we do something about this,â€ she said. â€œIf every county along the river did something about this, we could eradicate this. Itâ€™s going to keep coming at us if something isnâ€™t done.â€
John DeHollander, director of the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District, told the committee that the grant funds anticipated to replenish the county funds used to fight the water chestnuts might not be available to the county until September.
Chemical treatment to fight the water chestnut infestation should occur by August, he added.
The legislature could put the matter back on the floor if someone made the motion and it was supported by two-thirds or more of the entire legislature, Sorbello said.
â€œWeâ€™ll do it that was if necessary; if we can,â€ he said.