Accompanied by a round of applause from local residents last week, the Fulton City Council and Mayor Ron Woodward cleared the way to move forward with the Lake Neahtahwanta Revitalization Project.
The council passed a motion in its regular meeting Tuesday Aug. 5 authorizing the mayor to sign all documents pertaining the bids on dredging the lake, which were to be opened the following Friday.
The 750-acre lake is one of many in the region under swimming and other recreational restrictions due to a high presence of blue-green algae. Officials say between eight and 12 feet of silt have built up in the lake’s basin over the years, blocking the flow of cold freshwater from the springs that feed it and leaving the water stagnate.
By dredging the silt, officials say they can restore the water’s flow rate and temperature to a level that would mitigate the algae’s growth.
Fulton has received $100,000 in state grant funding to advance the project. Unlike Granby, which is commissioning its own dredging barge and doing the work itself, Fulton plans to contract the work out, at least in the short term. Woodward previously said that if the city doesn’t get the ball rolling on the project soon, it runs the risk of losing that money.
Officials had to hold off on moving the project forward during the early part of the summer, as the state will only allow dredging after July 15, which is considered the end of fish spawning season.
Woodward said once the project has been started by professionals, the city will look into having its own dredging barge built so it could potentially take over the work.
When blue-green algae blooms, it releases toxins into the air – known as cynotoxins – which pose a threat to people, pets and wildlife. Last month, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed a strong presence of the algae in the lake. However, at that time, the toxin level was below what is considered a serious health threat.
The city has already received the necessary permit from state regulators to do the project. The permit allows for dredging to take place over the next 10 years.
Thirteen bids were put out for the project. They were to be received that Friday evening. Woodward said no bids would be awarded though until early this week.
Upon reading the motion, around a half-dozen residents in attendance burst into applause showing support for the endeavor.