All the counties, towns, and villages within the Seneca Lake watershed are being asked to join as voting members of the Seneca Watershed Intermunicipal Organization in a Memorandum of Understanding for the protection and improvement of Seneca Lake’s water. These number 40 municipalities in the five counties (Chemung, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, and Yates) with jurisdictions that geographically fall within the Seneca Lake Watershed, which includes all of Keuka Lake’s watershed.
So far, Yates County, the towns of Milo, Potter, Starkey, and Torrey, and the villages of Dundee and Penn Yan have all joined. The Town of Jerusalem and Village of Dresden are still to decide. The towns of Middlesex and Italy are outside the watershed area. Only Barrington and Benton have so far indicated their unwillingness to join as participating members.
Benton Town Supervisor John Prendergast says he has attended some of the SWIO meetings, and the town may be open to joining in the future; but Prendergast fears the good intentions of SWIO will expand over time to become an “autocratic, mandating authority. My concerns are protecting the right’s of the town’s citizens and their agricultural interests,” says Prendergast.
According to SWIO, the Seneca Lake Watershed Management Plan was funded by a Local Waterfront Revitalization Grant (LWRP) through New York State Department of State. This plan was written by three partner organizations: Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council and Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board. The plan is an update of the 1999 report, “Setting a Course for Seneca Lake,” in which an intermunicipal organization named Seneca Lake Area Partners of Five Counties (SLAP-5) was formed.