Yates County joins Seneca Lake group

Gwen Chamberlain

Yates County will join other municipalities around Seneca Lake in a coalition represented by the Natural Resources Defense Council when an administrative judge hears comments about plans to store LP gas near the lake.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has scheduled the issues conference for February in response to Crestwood Midstream’s application for an underground facility for storage of propane and butane on a portion of a 576-acre site located in the town of Reading on the west side of Seneca Lake.

The purpose of the issues conference is to determine if there are any significant and substantive issues that require an adjudicatory hearing, according to the DEC.

Representation by NRDC will come at no cost to the county, explained District IV Legislator Bill Holgate of Starkey at the Jan. 12 legislature meeting. He said the municipal concerns are for water quality issues, and the effort is being driven by the City of Geneva and Village of Waterloo that draw municipal drinking water from Seneca Lake. He said Geneva and Waterloo officials are concerned about the salinity level of the lake, which is already near the maximum level.

Margaret Dunn of Italy (District I) said she did not want to be represented in the same class as people who have been arrested for trespassing on Crestwood property in recent weeks because there has been some cost to the county due to their actions (Yates County Deputies have assisted Schuyler County officials in taking trespassers into custody).

Holgate assured her this resolution would not associate Yates County with the group known as We Are Seneca Lake. “We are signing on with Watkins Glen and all the towns and counties around Seneca Lake except Schuyler County,” he said.

Dunn ended up supporting the resolution, but District III Legislators Dan Banach and Leslie Church, both from Milo, and District II Legislator James Smith of Torrey, all of which border on Seneca Lake, voted against it. Church and Banach had previously voted against a resolution officially opposing the gas storage project.

“I do not support the large scale storage of LP and natural gas storage in former salt mines along the shores of Seneca Lake. My vote against the resolution was in part because we did not have time to discuss it in detail at our sub-committee meetings and therefore it is my thought that we did not have time to fully vet the issue and resultant implications,” explained Smith in an email after the meeting.

“I am in general reluctant to sign off on issues that have not been fully discussed, and in particular, issues whereby the Yates County Legislature assigns responsibility for our representation to a third party when we do not fully understand the totality of the position the third party will take in representing Yates County. This is a very serious issue and it is most unfortunate that we did not have sufficient time to fully understand all of the ramifications and obligations the county will incur as a result of signing onto this representation,” he added.

Last fall, the legislators adopted a resolution opposing the project.

The issues conference will be held Feb. 12 at the Horseheads Holiday Inn, and only those who have applied for party status will be permitted to speak.

Other business on the Jan. 12 agenda included:

• Veteran’s Services Director: Legislators unanimously agreed to appoint Philip T. Rouin as Director of Veteran’s Services at an annual salary of $45,000, effective Jan. 20. Rouin replaces retiring P. Earle Gleason.

• Appointments: Legislators appointed Gene Pierce of Dundee, Rita Gow of Penn Yan and Mary Zelazny, of Penn Yan to the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center’s Board of Directors for terms ending Dec. 31, 2016. They also appointed John Sawers of Rushville to the county Planning Board.

• Sales Tax Receipts: Gary Montgomery of Jerusalem (District I) commented that with a final payment expected this week, 2014 Sales Tax receipts already eclipsed the $10.3 million of revenue anticipated in the 2014 budget. Treasurer Nonie Flynn reports the final receipt of more than $517,000 puts the total 2014 collections over $10.9 million. Sales tax receipts in 2013 were $10.6 million.

• Recognition: Thirty-eight county employees were recognized for their years of service. See related article.