Save Seneca Lake
I had the incredible experience of growing up in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. When I tell people from out of state or out of the country that I’m from New York, I delight in revealing to them for the first time that the State is something beyond the famous city. There is a whole other side to New York: the hills and valleys and State Parks and lakes and gorges and vibrant green summers and fiery autumns.
The Finger Lakes of Upstate New York are comprised of eleven individual lakes, each named after Native American tribes and carved out by glacial movements. They are named the “Finger Lakes” because it looks like someone reached down from the sky and pressed their hands into the rich soil. They are boons for New York’s wine and tourism industries. I was born and raised on the north end of Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes in terms of depth and volume. I attend Ithaca College on the south end of Cayuga Lake, the longest lake. Each summer, my mother and I try to set time aside to visit Keuka Lake and stay in a cabin.
When I first entered the environmental movement, I was signing petitions from all over the United States and the world. Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline in the Midwest, halt rainforest destruction in Malaysia, save the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. The closest climate change and the industry hit home for me is the debate over banning hydraulic fracturing in New York.
But then it landed right on my doorstep. I found out that the gas industry was putting my home lake in severe danger. A company called Inergy, now Crestwood, wants to expand liquefied petroleum gas facilities in the abandoned salt mines on the shores of Seneca Lake. These salt mines were never designed to store gas, and they have collapsed in the past. The lake provides drinking water to over a 100,000 people, not to mention it supports an ecosystem. We cannot afford for the water to be polluted in the event of a leak. Nor can we afford an explosion — a disaster from these proposed facilities could wipe out the entire Watkins Glen area, and the local volunteer fire departments are not equipped to handle a disaster of such large magnitude.
The proposed facilities would require the construction of two open brine pits, a flare stack, a noisy compressor station, and a new transport station, which would increase truck and train traffic significantly. Route 14 is already overrun with semi-trucks; I can’t imagine what an increase in truck traffic would look like. None of these things are appealing to tourists whatsoever.
If the proposed facilities go forward, only eight to ten jobs will be created. In contrast, in 2010 there were 21 businesses on Seneca Lake classified as vineyards employing 161 people, and 45 businesses classified as wineries employing 1,017 people. A report from 2012 shows that New York’s grape and wine industry contributes $4.8 billion to the state’s economy, and this number is increasing with time.
On June 5th, the Climate March sent a letter to the Schuyler County Legislature, which was considering a resolution to approve of Crestwood’s project, urging them to vote no. Unfortunately, the Legislature went forward with the resolution, with the leader of effort, legislature member Dennis Fagan, violating the courthouse’s occupancy limit to let in more Crestwood employees while hundreds of those in opposition stood outside during the meeting.
However, the fight for Seneca Lake is not over. Seneca and Ontario Counties have come out in opposition to the project, as well as the Town of Waterloo, the Town of Geneva, the City of Geneva, the Town of Fayette, the Town of Romulus, and the Town of Ulysses. Yates County has filed a letter of concern in regards to the project. Ultimately, Governor Andrew Cuomo has the final decision on the project, so we need to make sure he hears us loud and clear.
Please, help me save Seneca Lake, my home and my heart. Visit gasfreeseneca.com to learn more about this issue and to sign a petition saying no to the project! I also encourage you to write to Governor Cuomo, whether or not you’re from New York. He needs to know that this is an issue that concerns everyone, not just locals! The Finger Lakes is a beautiful place and I’d hate for any of you to ever feel uncomfortable about visiting there and experiencing it for yourselves.
If you want to talk to me directly about this issue, or tell me about your own home issues, please contact me at email@example.com