FULTON, NY – During a recent Common Council meeting a 6th grader stepped to the podium during the public session to ask the mayor of Fulton about the ongoing efforts to clean up Lake Neatahwanta, and what young people can do to help.
Brandon Grow, a 6th grader at Volney Elementary School, is a Boy Scout with Troop #780 in Hannibal, and he is working to earn the highest achievement in Scouts: the rank of Eagle.
“Citizenship in the community is a required merit badge,” Grow explained to the mayor and councilors. “I’d like to ask about Lake Neatahwanta. What is being done?”
Mayor Ronald Woodward, formerly a Sixth Ward scout master for nine years, said he was happy to answer the young man’s question.
“I’ll try to be brief,” the mayor said. ” Our goal is to re-open that lake.”
“Lake Neatahwanta was formed by glaciers thousands of years ago,” Woodward explained.”It was fed by natural springs that percolate up out of the aquifer and fed the lake fresh water. There were two or three creeks that flowed into the lake all the time and one that flowed out into The Oswego River, so Lake Neatahwanta always had fresh water.”
The mayor said that over that last several hundred years the depth of the lake started to accumulate sediment and fill in.
“This happens with all lakes but you notice it more with small lakes,” he added. “Some of that sediment came from the farmlands in the surrounding towns over the last hundred years, and some of it came from the city of Fulton because we have storm sewers where our streets run off … into the lake; some is leaves in the fall; some is wind erosion; and some is from dead animals and dead fish.”
As the lake fills in with sediment, because it’s not as deep the water temperature rises and that promotes the growth of the blue-green algae, the mayor said. “That eventually led to us shutting the two beaches down.”
“Also, the sediment at the bottom of that lake is starting to plug the natural springs which supply the fresh water,” Woodward explained.
Another factor is the type of sediment. “It’s high in nutrients,” the former scoutmaster explained. “Nutrients also promote the growth of blue-green algae. So, by removing that sediment by dredging it up, and returning the lake to its original depth, that will start to cure the problem.”
“We did several studies, 70 pages worth of sampling from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, before we got our permit to dredge. We tested for every chemical that is known that’s harmful. No chemical contamination exists in that lake. The only contamination is nutrients,” Woodward said.
Because of the natural flow of the water and wind, the mayor noted that nutrient-rich sediment gathered more in certain spots and those places were the first targeted to be dredged.
With $200,000 in special funding secured by Sen. Patty Ritchie to assist Fulton in its efforts to re-open the lake and its beaches, the Fulton Community Revitalization Committee hired Groh’s Dredging and Marine to do the dredge work on the city-owned portion of the lake bed.
The town of Granby’s Lake Revitalization Committee has also been awarded $200,000 for the same purpose on the Granby-owned portion of the lake.
Woodward noted that the Fulton community has also created its own fundraising program ” Yard at a Time for $12.89″ where individuals can contribute to the lake clean-up. The amount of $12.89 represents the cost to dredge one cubic yard of sediment.
Working from a grid pattern map over laid on the shoreline behind Fulton’s War Memorial, Groh’s Dredging has already removed 10,000 cubic yards of sediment from the first 300 feet by 300 feet grid square, and another 3,000 cubic yards from the second grid.
“In first grid dredged we opened up a significantly sized fresh water spring, which is now contributing a considerable amount of fresh water,” the mayor said.
“Weather permitting we’re scheduled to remove another 7,000 cubic yards before the end of this year,” the mayor noted.
“To put that in perspective, 10,000 cubic yards takes 714 10-wheeler dump trucks to remove,” he said. “That is what was removed from a 300 feet by 300 feet square. That gives you an idea of how much sediment has accumulated in the lake.”
“It is our hope that, in the next five years, you will see a dramatic improvement in the lake,” Wooward said.
“How can young people help?” Grow asked.
“By doing just what you’re doing,” the mayor replied. “The more you learn about it and understand it, the less afraid you’ll be. Ask questions. Learn. Become informed and tell your friends.”
In working to earn the Eagle Scout rank Grow must fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service, and outdoor skills, according to Boy Scouts of America.
“Although many options are available to demonstrate proficiency in these areas, a number of specific skills are required to advance through the ranks—Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle.To advance, a Boy Scout must pass specific tests that are organized by requirements and merit badges,” according to the BSA guidelines.
Eagle Scout requirements state that “merit badges signify the mastery of certain Scoutcraft skills, as well as helping boys increase their skill in an area of personal interest.”
“Of the 134 merit badges available, 21 must be earned to qualify for Eagle Scout and of this group, 13 badges are required, including First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, Communication, Cooking, Personal Fitness, Personal Management, Camping, and Family Life. In addition, a Scout has a choice between Emergency Preparedness and Lifesaving, Cycling, Hiking, and Swimming, and Environmental Science and Sustainability.”
In discussing community citizenship, BSA teaches that in the United States, local government means self-government, and “good citizens help to make decisions about their community through their elected local officials.”