by Carmelo “Mel” Russo
Recently, much discussion has been circulating regarding LP gas (liquified petroleum gas or propane) storage in the salt caverns along the shores of Seneca Lake. Any attempt to originate such an endeavor could spell a very serious perpetual threat to Seneca Lake’s ecology. Already levels of dissolved solids in the lake are at the edge of tolerance for many fresh water organisms. I recall in the 70’s, while out on a lake research vessel, we found some Seneca Lake protozoans (single celled animals) near the Himrod area as resembling salt water species in their management of osmotic pressure. This was due, we assumed, to the high saline content of the water outside their cells.
Some aquatic organisms like the invasive round goby and their invasive predecessor, the zebra mussel, can tolerate high salt concentrations. Others, such as the members of the, catfish family, perch family, sunfish family (includes smallmouth, largemouth bass), some trout species, and the pike family are not highly salt tolerant. Whole changes in Finger Lakes ecosystems and food chains can result from the slightest of accidents, incidents, or infractions involving these mines.
OK. So you don’t care about fish, ecosystems and the drinking water for many thousands of people. You can still enjoy viewing the lake as well as boating, and swimming while it is high in dissolved solids. Therefore you may say, we should still allow LP gas storage because it can support up to 10 jobs (woop-de-doo!). Then consider this: Finger Lakes tourism creates revenues of over 2.8 billion dollars per year while also supporting 59,000 jobs. Seneca Lake comprises about 32% of the total Finger Lakes by surface area; so, theoretically, this lake may generate nearly 0.9 billion U.S. dollars in and of itself. Further, contaminants from a Seneca Lake accident can trickle down through the Cayuga-Seneca Canal to Cayuga Lake and onward to the Oswego River eventually to Lake Ontario. Everyone should be concerned about the slightest possibility of seriously upsetting a 10,000 year old, relatively pristine ecosystem.
Another huge factor to consider with lake contamination is the real property tax base. As an example, Seneca County alone, has a full market value (based on 2014 average sale) of over $600,000,000 (six hundred million). For the town of Varick in that county, the lakefront real estate constitutes over 80% of the taxable real estate assessment there. All of the lakefront towns in the Finger Lakes contain billions of dollars of assessed value generating millions of dollars of tax revenues supporting schools, fire departments, infrastructure, and governments. With water contamination, the assessments of waterfront properties would fall drastically because of decrease in demand resulting in property values dropping precipitously. Who will then provide the majority of local support for schools, government and infrastructure then?
Now, think about the recent environmental accident involving millions of gallons of serious contaminants released to the Animas River in Colorado and its rippling consequences to the environment, economy, and society. For the Seneca Lake area and ANY of the Finger Lakes region, accepting and allowing any endeavor which could have the least bit of a possibility for an environmental accident is what we call a “no brainer.” As responsible citizens of the Finger Lakes, it is our duty to review, monitor, and oppose all new and existing risks to our lakes not only to protect the ecosystems and the pleasure resource they provide, but also to maintain the billions of beneficial dollars generated by these upstate wonders. Encourage your representatives and influential groups to be resolute and emphatic in opposing LP gas storage near Seneca.
© Mel Russo 2015 All Rights Reserved
Seneca County Chamber of Commerce September 2015 mailing
Seneca County Real Property Tax Office, 2015
Senecayuga Properties, LLC 2014 Newsletter