Officials with the Army Corps Engineers say they’re working diligently to finalize the permit decision for the Owasco Flats restoration plan. The project will help reduce algae blooms on Owasco Lake that threaten drinking water and recreation.
The update comes after Senator Chuck Schumer paid a visit to Owasco Lake last week to push the project forward. It’s been six years in the making, slowly going through a series of state and local approvals.
"And the last hurdle to get this done is not state, is not local...it's federal. It's the Army Corps of Engineers all that's needed before the project can go out to bid is wetlands permits from the Corps," Schumer said July 31.
Steven Metevier is Chief of the New York Applications Section for the Army Corps in Buffalo, which oversees all of upstate.
"The plan is to come up with a permit this week and finalize it."
Metevier says they had been waiting for a water quality certification from the state before they moved forward with their authorization. The project has been a priority since the state permits were issued in mid July. Metevier says their permit basically allows entry to the protected wetlands.
"They're putting in an access roads through wetlands. Some of the basins they'll be constructing will be partially in wetlands. There will be mechanized land clearing and grading in those areas."
He says the idea is to excavate some of the wetlands around the Owasco Inlet.
"It simply doesn't flood as much as it would outside of the channel. One of the things riparian wetlands do is allow the water to come up and dissipate over the banks. The water doesn't get out of the channel and allow the wetlands and storm basins to do their thing with respect to reducing phosphorus and nitrogen."
Those are nutrients which are causing algae blooms in Owasco Lake. Metevier says the Army Corps won’t be doing any of the work on this project, so it’s unclear when the project might begin. Senator Schumer seemed indicate bidding could go out soon in hopes of getting the work done before the end of the year.