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Schumer seeks Army Corps help for algae-infested lakes

WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer wants the federal government to get serious in dealing with the toxic algae blooms that have sprouted this year in Chautauqua Lake and similar bodies of water around the state.

To that end, Schumer on Thursday wrote a letter to the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, asking him to bring new algae-fighting technologies that have worked in Florida northward, and include them in the agency's work plan for the state in the year ahead.

“The toxic algae blooms that are infecting lakes across upstate New York not only threaten local communities, drinking water sources, ecosystems and public health, but also hurt our local outdoor economies by closing beaches and limiting recreational activities," said Schumer, a New York Democrat. "Our upstate lakes have suffered well over 1,000 of these harmful algae blooms just this year – they are being plagued, and require federal help to implement a cure."

Chautauqua Lake – both a drinking water source and a recreational site – may have experienced as many as 85 harmful algae blooms this year alone, and a total of 298 such events since 2012, the state Department of Environmental Conservation reported. Those algae blooms, which are tied to runoff from nearby farms, have caused 22 beach closures there since 2017.

Similar problems have occurred at Canandaigua Lake, Seneca Lake, Skaneateles Lake, Conesus Lake, Owasco Lake, Honeoye Lake, Lake George and the Croton Falls Reservoir.

That being the case, Schumer said the Army Corps should bring its experimental algae-fighting programs to New York State. The corps has at least seven such efforts underway, and one of them has been helpful in cleaning up algae problems in Florida's Lake Okeechobee.

"To successfully battle these harmful algae blooms, upstate New York is going to need the Army Corps’ expertise and support,” Schumer said.

Schumer spelled out his concerns in a letter to Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, commanding general of the Army Corps.

Schumer is not the first New York lawmaker to call on the Army Corps to expand its successful anti-algae efforts. In September, Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, suggested that the technologies the Army Corps used successfully in Florida should also be used to control algae blooms that have appeared in recent years in western Lake Erie.

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