Today Representative Dan Maffei announced that he has introduced the Onondaga Lake Restoration Act to restructure the partnership currently overseeing the cleanup of Onondaga Lake. The bill would place the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in charge of the management conference, similar to the successful Lake Champlain Basin Program, and ensure participation by state and local government, local residents and environmental groups. Senator Gillibrand announced she will also introduce a companion bill in the Senate.
The U.S. District Court recently decided that involved parties in the Onondaga Lake cleanup could use green infrastructure to capture and treat the millions of gallons of untreated sewage and pollutants that result from overflowed sewers during rainstorms. As a result, Onondaga County is planning to build a network of trees, trenches, gardens, and rain barrels to prevent a portion of the storm water from reaching sewers in the first place. The EPA is experienced in implementing these green infrastructure projects, and therefore the best choice for leadership going forward.
Representative Maffei said: “Onondaga Lake is a crucial part of our community, and I’m committed to its cleanup and its changing needs. The Champlain Basin Program, which the Onondaga Lake Restoration Act is modeled after, has a proven track record of success, and I know we are capable of the same level of success here. I want to thank all the partners who are working so hard to clean up the lake, and I look forward to our continued partnership.”
Senator Gillibrand said: “Modeled after the successful program that runs the Lake Champlain program in my old district, The Onondaga Lake Restoration Act will create a partnership of federal, state, tribal and local representatives on what will be called the, ‘Onondaga Lake Watershed Council’ with the mission to develop strategies for the restoration, conservation, and management of the lake. It is my hope that through this legislation, Onondaga Lake will become a recreation site and tourism attraction – it will become a place where families can boat and fish and spend time outdoors. This will not happen overnight, but we will not be complete until Onondaga Lake it clean and safe.”
Mayor Miner said: “I applaud Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Maffei for taking the lead to establish this new, inclusive approach to coordinating the effort to clean up Onondaga Lake.”
County Executive Mahoney: “Collaboration and innovation are key components in the drive to clean up Onondaga Lake. We look forward to reviewing this legislation and more importantly in supporting Congressman Maffei and Senator Gillibrand in their continued and tireless effort to provide increased federal support for the lake clean up effort.”
Assemblyman William Magnarelli: “Cleaning Onondaga Lake is of great priority to the entire Central New York area. It is nice to see this effort being pushed forward successfully. This area has incredible potential for tourism and entertainment venues. Cleaning Onondaga Lake also correlates to maintaining the area’s emphasis on environmentally friendly projects and business.”
Ed Michalenko, President of the Onondaga Environmental Institute, said: “The goal is to bring all parties to the table and progress forward with our common goals and interests, and not break down over our differences. We will strive to promote collective involvement, foster an atmosphere of collaboration, cooperation, and respectful dialogue, and build compromise and consensus on the many difficult issues before us. We will work toward the understanding that no one party or entity is responsible for restoring Onondaga Lake; the effort will require support from the entire community over a long period of time.”
The Onondaga Restoration Act would give the Administrator of the EPA the power to convene a watershed council, which will meet to create a plan for the cleanup of Onondaga Lake. The watershed council will consist of the Administrator of the EPA, the Secretary of the Army, a representative of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs, the Governor of New York, a representative of Syracuse, a representative of Onondaga County, U.S. Senators from New York, U.S. Representatives whose district(s) include Onondaga Lake, NY state legislators whose districts lie in the Onondaga Lake Watershed and other interested Federal agencies as determined by the Administrator. Once the plan is created and approved by the Administrator of the EPA and the Governor of New York, the Administrator will coordinate with the Onondaga Lake Scientific Center to execute the cleanup.