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Assemblyman William Barclay speaks out against proposed “environmentally-friendly” water levels plan for Lake Ontario

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MASSENA - Assemblyman William A. Barclay, R-Pulaski, and several other New York politicians representing Lake Ontario communities have vowed to fight the International Joint Commission’s proposed BV7 water regulation plan for the lake-St. Lawrence River system.

Joining 10 Assembly members and state Senators, Mr. Barclay co-signed a letter urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to block BV7, which south Lake Ontario shore residents fear would flood their properties and hurt businesses.

In the letter, they argue that these supposedly “environmental-friendly” policy changes proposed under BV7 would not only have a “devastating impact” on the state’s economy but also “lack an adequate basis in science.”

“The policy changes suggested during periods of high water could also submerge the main business and recreation districts in low lying communities like the village of Sodus Point,” the letter said. “A special panel of the National Research Council also concluded that the scientific work done by the Commission is insufficient and does not justify the drastic changes proposed in the BV7 plan.”

In the north country, BV7 is widely praised as a “balanced” solution that takes into consideration all interests — including environmental and recreational boating interests that were neglected under the original 1958-D water plan.

By mimicking the natural rise and fall of the lake and river, BV7 is expected to help reverse the damage done to the region’s ecosystem with the construction of the Moses-Saunders hydroelectric dam in Massena in the late 1950s and increase Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River-area wetland meadows by 40 percent.

“There’s plenty of proof that this is solid science. The IJC’s study has been peer-reviewed numerous times,” said Jennifer Caddick, outgoing executive director of Save the River, a Clayton-based environmental group has long advocated for the binational IJC to replace its outdated water levels plan.

More than a decade ago — in December 2000 — the IJC initiated a five-year, federally-funded $20 million study to update its now half-century-old regulation plan for the lake and river.

After an unsuccessful attempt in 2008 to adopt “Plan 2007,” which some considered a spin-off of the existing plan, IJC formed an international working group and proposed earlier this year BV7 — or version seven of the “environmentally-friendly” option laid out in its initial 2006 study report.

Thousand Islands and Lake St.Lawrence communities and businesses believe the proposed plan also would boost local tourism by allowing for longer boating seasons.

On average, BV7 is expected to increase spring water levels by 2.4 inches, summer levels by 1.2 inches and fall levels by 2 inches.

However, those against the plan believe the high water levels projected under the proposed plan would wreak havoc on south shore communities along Lake Ontario, such as Sodus Bay and Rochester.

“We strongly urge you to join with us in urging the IJC to halt any action on the lake level regulation plan until 1) a more thorough assessment is completed on the impact of the proposed BV7 plan to the south shore of Lake Ontario; and 2) an agreement is reached between the state and federal government on who will provide mitigation funds for the resulting losses to those residents, businesses and communities which will assuredly be negatively impacted,” the letter said.

In its own economic impact study, the IJC projects a $3 million increase in annual shoreline protection costs for lakefront property owners under BV7.

IJC plans to gather public input until June 15 and then draft its final proposal — which will include a revised order of approval, regulation plan, adaptive management plan and governance structure.

Before adopting a new set of regulations, IJC will hold formal public hearings on the final proposal.

The others who signed the letter to Gov. Cuomo were Assembly members Robert C. Oaks, R-Macedon; Jane L. Corwin, R-Clarence; Stephen M. Hawley, R-Batavia; Mark C. Johns, R-Webster; William D. Reilich, R-Greece; Joseph D. Morelle, D-Irondequoit and state Sens. Michael F. Nozzolio, R-Seneca Falls; James S. Alesi, R-Perinton; George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane and David J. Valesky, D-Oneida.

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