OSWEGO — Plans for the continued dredging of Lake Neatahwanta in Fulton are scheduled to kick off again this spring, according to an update Monday from the Lake Reclamation Committee.
At a meeting of the county Economic Development and Planning Committee Monday, legislators were given insight into the proposed project to rehabilitate the 700-acre lake for improved fishing and recreation.
"It's going to take a fair number of years to see fruitful resolution of this project, but somebody had to bite the bullet and get it started," said Fred St. Onge, Reclamation Committee member.
North Bay Beach and Stevenson's Beach on Lake Neatahwanta were closed in 1988 due to extremely high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, and they've never been reopened. At that time the beaches were closed, and algae had already begun to take hold in the lake.
Sediment build up caused the lake to become shallow and warmer, which not only helped the bacteria thrive but also combined with high phosphorus levels to allow blue-green algae to flourish. Large algae blooms can produce poisonous toxins and reduce oxygen levels in the water, making it difficult for some native wildlife to survive.
Officials believe removing the sediment — to open the flow of freshwater springs that feed the lake — will restore the water quality.
In the presentation, St. Onge and committee Chairman Ed Williamson, who is also Granby supervisor, gave a run-through of the progress made so far since the project began in 2014.
Dirty water from the lake is pumped into a settling pond on the lake's northwest shore. The filtered water is then returned clean to the lake, said St. Onge.
After several months of pumping water through that pipe and pond system, the Reclamation Committee was able, with the help of volunteers and financial assistance from community groups, to build two pontoon boats which will do the majority of the dredging this upcoming spring.
"Our volunteers did a heck of a job building those pontoons at the most cost-efficient way possible," said committee member and Legislator Morris Sorbello, R-Granby Dock sections on the shore will serve as anchor points for the dredging cables from the pontoons, whose augur can reach down to 13 feet. The pontoon boats can "go up to the very shoreline" said Williamson. The silt and soil that is taken out of the lake can also possibly be used for sale as topsoil, said Williamson.
Last year, the combined pumping and dredging efforts opened up approximately 20 acres of the lake, which one committee member described as "emptying a bucket with a teaspoon," and the Reclamation Committee has been working with officials from Syracuse University's Environmental and Forestry Science college.
One of the ancillary benefits of the dredging process has been the opening up of previously covered underground water springs. The fresh, cold water not only helps to clear silt and sediment, but cuts down on the occurrence of blue-green algae.
According to Williamson, dredging activities are slated to begin on May 1. Williamson said the project has been funded by more than $275,000 in grants and "not one penny of Granby tax dollars was used." The Lake Neatahwanta Revitalization Committee, which is the city of Fulton-based organization designed to help clean the lake and bolster local tourism, has also worked on dredging the lake over the past two years.