LAKE GEORGE — The governor’s office announced additional funding to the tune of $9.4 million on Sunday to help replace the village of Lake George’s wastewater treatment plant.
The funding announcement is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State proposals. Cuomo will officially present his proposals on Wednesday to the Legislature.
“Lake George is a crown jewel of New York’s many beautiful lakes and waterways. This critical water infrastructure project will both ensure the continued health of the lake’s pristine waters and further economic growth throughout the region,” Cuomo said in a news release. “New York is leading the way in protecting water quality, which is why the state is investing a historic $3 billion dollars to help municipalities address these challenges head-on.”
The grant funding comes in addition to a $3 million Water Infrastructure Improvement Act grant and a DEC-funded $2.5 million Water Quality Improvement Project grant totaling state investment to $14.9 million.
The total cost of the project is estimated at about $24 million with funding coming from village, town, state and federal sources. As of mid-December, the village received about $7.25 million in grants to lessen the burden on taxpayers.
Lake George is under a consent order from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to replace the 1930s-era plant because it releases an excessive amount of nitrates, which can cause algal blooms that degrade the water quality of the lake. The new plant must be operating by August 2021 to comply with the decree.
Mayor Robert Blais on Sunday called news of the additional funding a “wonderful gift.”
“Gov. Cuomo has assured our citizens and the millions of tourists that enjoy Lake George annually that we will now have an affordable project — a project that will pay dividends to the future of our region for decades to come. These funds will ensure our residents of clean drinking water and a continued robust economy,” he said.
“If the Queen of America’s lakes could speak today, she would certainly be jumping for joy and say ‘thank you governor, for partnering with us 9.4 million times,” he added.
Blais said the money will reduce the amount of debt payments for the village from about $525,000 per year to a little less than $300,000 annually. Blais would still like an additional $100,000 in occupancy tax funding from Warren County to lower the burden on the village’s 1,000 residents even further and for users in the town’s Caldwell Sewer District, who pay a much higher rate than the village.
Blais believes that the county funding would ensure that the village would be able to stay under the tax cap.
Even with the additional state money, the village will still be bonding about $9 million.
Work progressing slowly
Construction on the plant began in August. The general contractor is Blue Herring Construction.
Blais said the first step was to begin construction of the administration building. Some pipes are being installed in the ground and one of the larger holding tanks has been demolished because it will no longer be useful. The project has stayed within budget.
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Blais said the work is going slower than the village would like. They have had a few weather delays and some difficulty with getting sufficient manpower to the job site.
“We’re having weekly meetings to make sure they get back on track, but it’s certainly moving along,” he said.
Blais said the contractor is telling village officials that they may run two shifts during the summer to make up for lost time to hit the deadline.
Blais has been lobbying for funding for many years along with other elected officials including Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury; U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury; and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville.
Stec and Little sent out a statement praising the news.
“We must continue our vigilance in protecting the beauty of Lake George and more importantly the water quality of the lake,” Stec said in a news release. “I am pleased to see this partnership with the state and village to ensure the ecological qualities of the lake are preserved as we move into the new decade.”
“This State of the State announcement is great news for the state of Lake George,” Little said in a news release. “Lake George is a unique and important asset not only for our region but all of New York. I am so pleased that Gov. Cuomo is making this funding a priority for 2020.”
Advocacy groups react
Lake George advocacy organizations have been lobbying.
Eric Siy, executive director of The Fund for Lake George, said the funding will help make possible the single most important Lake George protection project in generations.
“Left unabated, pollution from the treatment plant and aging private septic systems poses serious threats to Lake George as a drinking water source for residents and visitors, and greatly increases the risk of harmful algal blooms like those that have wreaked havoc on the environment and economy of lakes across our state and beyond,” he said in a news release.
“Our environment and economy are two sides of the same coin, and Lake George is the common currency that will either accrue or decline in value depending on the actions we now take. Gov. Cuomo’s leadership and New York State’s direct investment will help ensure we protect the legendary clarity and cleanliness of Lake George and the health of our regional economy for generations to come,” Siy added.
The Fund for Lake George had conducted a study that found that the Depression-era plant was affecting water quality. The organization also provided a $20,000 grant to start the design of the new plant.
Walt Lender, Executive Director of the Lake George Association, also commented on the news.
“On behalf of the 2,000-plus members of the Lake George Association, we want to thank Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York State for providing more than $9 million in funding for the Lake George Waste Water Treatment Plant,” he said on the organization’s Facebook page. “Congratulations to Mayor Blais for the award and for his constant efforts to protect Lake George water quality from harm.”
— Post-Star online editor Adam Colver, firstname.lastname@example.org also contributed to this report.