Despite calls to table the measure for more discussion, the Chautauqua County Legislature approved using $1 million in American Rescue Plan funding for the Jefferson Project.
One of a handful of public comments opposing the funding included Chautauqua-Conewango Watershed Consortium representative Jane Conroe, who stated the Legislature should be leading with science, “Why would we pay for understanding algae mechanisms that we already have information for? The very comprehensive ‘Harmful Agal Blooms Action Plan for Chautauqua Lake’ that we already have has much of this information. California, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project has done extensive research along with Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The need for a complete agal DNA reference library has been taken up by this organization.”
Former County Executive Vince Horrigan submittted a letter in support of funding the Jefferson Project saying the project “brings a professional outside and an objective approach” to identifying issues in Chautauqua Lake.
The Jefferson Project is a collaboration of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM Research, and the Lake George Association that is conducting water quality and Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) research. It was introduced to Chautauqua Lake in 2020 in partnership with the Chautauqua County Government, Chautauqua Institution, and the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance.
Legislator Tom Nelson made a motion to table the resolution, saying more discussion was needed. The motion failed 5 to 14.
Legislator John Hemmer echoed the need for more discussion, saying there was not enough information for how the $1 million would be spent and what would be done, “I listened to the presentation that was given and it was a lot of talk about testing and research. And nowhere in the presentation did they say anything about the solution to the problem being presented at the end of the research.”
Legislator Bob Bankoski said it was advantageous for the Legislature to move forward with the project, “I do agree with some of the people that made comments today. I think some of this stuff is very vague and I really, really hope that we have some locked down answers. When they’re done with this project I want an action plan from them that tells us exactly what to do.”
An amendment by Legislator Tom Harmon to add language to the resolution saying that “this funding would be used for research and ongoing work in 2023” did pass.
The final vote was 17 to 2 with Legislators John Hemmer and Susan Parker being the only no votes.