The state has granted a permit to the City of Fulton to begin dredging Lake Neatahwanta, an important step forward in efforts to reclaim the 750 acre lake.
L ongtime Fulton residents like Paul Cooper remember the days when Lake Neatahwanta had a swimming beach and was a hot spot for boating and fishing. "There's so many memories here. It was such a great place for everybody to come. It's a shame it got this far." Cooper told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
T he beach closed down in the late 80's because of harmful bacteria. In 2004 the state declared the entire lake off limits to people and pets after a dog died from algae poisoning.
L ake Neatahwanta is only 10 feet deep, but a hundred years ago, Mayor Ron Woodward says it was 35 feet deep. Over time it has been filling with sediments which have plugged up the natural springs that used to feed the lake. Essentially it has been slowly turning into a stagnant swamp.
For more than 20 years, Fulton has been trying to clear the way to reclaim it. On July 25, t he state Department of Environmental Conservation granted a permit to begin dredging the lake. Mayor Woodward says Fulton will soon begin a 10 year project to remove the sediments which choked off the springs. "I want to restore it to what it was in days gone by. I want out children and future generations of children and Fultonians and area people to enjoy what I enjoyed, my parents enjoyed. I think we owe that to them." Woodward said.
W oodward says the key to the reclamation effort was the finding that the sediment is pollution free. Instead of being forced to pay millions of dollars to dispose of the sediments as hazardous waste, Fulton can utilize the dredged material for topsoil and other valuable purposes.
M ayor Woodward hopes the dredging can begin this year and perhaps the beach could re-open next summer.
He could not say how much the entire project will cost, but he says he intends to save money by seeking donations so Fulton can buy its own dredging machine. Woodward says he himself and other volunteers could operate it free of charge.