Feb. 12, 2007
Anglers and Businesses Are Encouraged to Take Part in DEC Meeting on Feb. 14
Anglers who fish Lake Ontario and its tributaries, and local businesses that rely on the sportfishery, are encouraged to take part in a series of public meetings that address the state's proposed Sportfishing Restoration and Spending Plan for the Lake Ontario system.
The meetings are hosted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and will focus on the use of a $12 million settlement from Occidental Chemical Corp. The Region 7 meeting, which encompasses Oswego County, will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Mexico High School on state Route 104.
The settlement will be paid over four years by Occidental Chemical Corporation for damages to the environment and recreational fishing as a result of chemical contamination under the federal Superfund Act.
“This money must be used to restore and enhance recreational fishing and fisheries in New York State,” said Oswego County Legislator Dan Chalifoux, chairman of the Legislature's Economic Development and Planning Committee. “It offers an incredible opportunity for improving the Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar. The hatchery produces 3.5 million trout and salmon annually, which are stocked in Lake Ontario and more than 100 other waters across New York State. Its importance to the sportfishery, and to our local economy, can't be overstated.”
The Economic Development and Planning Committee also includes legislators John Proud (District 7, Mexico) vice chairman; and Fred Beardsley (District 9, Hastings); Clayton Brewer (District 24, Fulton); Jack Beckwith (District 21, Hannibal); Paul Natoli (District 11, Volney); and Philip Vasho (District 22, Fulton).
Oswego County's tourism industry generates more than $115 million for the local economy, according to a study by the Northern New York Travel and Tourism Research Center at SUNY Potsdam.
David Turner, Director of the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning, said there are at least 100 licensed charter captains and river guides doing business in Oswego County, and 30 marinas provide more than 2,000 boat slips. Oswego County ranks first in the sales of non-resident fishing licenses across New York State, selling five times as many licenses to non-residents as nearby counties.
“Stakeholders all along the lake recognize the importance of the Altmar fish hatchery to the overall health of the fishery,” said Turner. “Many of them are joining forces to advocate for improvements to the hatchery.”
Bill Hilts Jr., an outdoor writer and sportfishing promotion director for Niagara County, is rallying forces in support of using settlement funds for the Altmar hatchery.
“The Salmon River Fish Hatchery is the primary facility that provides salmon and trout to Lake Ontario,” he stated. “The hatchery is in dire need of improvements. Roughly $500,000 was identified in the Governor's executive budget last year to help rectify well and water flow improvements in Altmar. When it was all said and done, no money made its way to the Salmon River site. Other hatcheries around the state were higher on the totem pole in the way of priorities. Still, Lake Ontario is the number one money-maker when it comes to nonresident license sales. It's the crown jewel in the state's fishing royalty. We need to treat it as such.”
Hilts and other stakeholders have also suggested that funds be invested in a state-of-the-art tagging trailer that would allow the DEC to tag every fish being stocked in the lake. The equipment could be used to gather data on natural reproduction and other issues affecting the sportfishery.
“Stakeholders need to band together and push for this critical component of the fishery,” said Hilts. “Without it, it would be a disservice to all stakeholders of Lake Ontario.”
Meetings will also be held in Ogdensburg, Watertown, Rochester and Lewiston. The deadline to submit written comments is March 20. To review the draft plan or submit comments, visit www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/fish/lkontactivities.html.
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